Government task force recommends drugs for women at high risk for breast cancer

12:40 PM, May 10, 2013   |    comments
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A government task force is out with new recommendations regarding the use of preventive medicines to lower the risk of breast cancer.

Nadine Bilotta took the drug Tamoxifen to lower her chances of getting the disease. Breast cancer runs in Bilotta's family. Shortly after doctors removed an abnormal lump from her breast nine years ago, she took her doctor's advice and started using the drug known to reduce the risk of breast cancer as much as
50 percent.

"I was really tired feeling like I was a sitting duck waiting to get breast cancer," Bilotta said.

According to new recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, women should find out from their doctors if they are at a high risk of getting breast cancer.

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Member Dr. Wanda Nicholson points out many factors play a role,"For example, age, race/ethnicity parity, the age at which the woman delivered her first liveborn child. Family history."

If they are at high risk they should discuss with their doctor whether drugs like Tamoxifen or Raloxifene are right for them. Both carry serious side effects.

"Hot flashes and menopausal symptoms, increased risk of blood clots," NYU Langone Medical Center Dr. Freya Schnabel.

Tamoxifen has also been shown to slightly increase the risk of uterine cancer. The recommendations apply to women between the ages of 40 and 70 who have never been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Bilotta finished taking the five year recommended regimen of Tamoxifen and never experienced any side effects. Now 53, she thinks she did the right thing.

"I had young kids at the time and I feel like I did all that iIcould do to prevent myself from getting sick," Bilotta said.

She also exercises and avoids alcohol to further lower her risk. Tamoxifen is currently the only risk-reducing breast cancer drug approved for pre-menopausal women. Raloxifene is recommended for post-menopausal women.

CBS News