November 27, 2015
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Breast Cancer (Facts, Stages) (cont.)

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Is it possible to prevent breast cancer?

There is no guaranteed way to prevent breast cancer. Reviewing the risk factors and modifying the ones that can be altered (increase exercise, keep a good body weight, etc.) can help in decreasing the risk.

Following the American Cancer Society's guidelines for early detection can help early detection and treatment.

There are some subgroups of women that should consider additional preventive measures.

Women with a strong family history of breast cancer should be evaluated by genetic testing. This should be discussed with a health-care provider and be preceded by a meeting with a genetic counselor who can explain what the testing can and cannot tell and then help interpret the results after testing.

Chemoprevention is the use of medications to reduce the risk of cancer. The two currently approved drugs for chemoprevention of breast cancer are tamoxifen (a medication that blocks estrogen effects on the breast tissue) and raloxifene (Evista), which also blocks the effect of estrogen on breast tissues. Their side effects and whether these medications are right for an individual need to be discussed with a health-care provider.

Aromatase inhibitors are medications that block the production of small amounts of estrogen usually produced in postmenopausal women. They are being used to prevent reoccurrence of breast cancer but are not approved at this time for breast cancer chemoprevention.

For a small group of patients who have a very high risk of breast cancer, surgery to remove the breasts may be an option. Although this reduces the risk significantly, a small chance of developing cancer remains.

What research is being done on breast cancer? Is it worthwhile to participate in a clinical trial?

Without research and clinical trials, there would be no progress in our treatment of cancers.

Research can take many forms, including research directly on cancer cells or using animals.

Research that a patient can be involved in is referred to as a clinical trial. In clinical trials, different treatment regimens are compared for side effects and outcomes, including long-term survival. Clinical trials are designed to find out whether new approaches are safe and effective.

Whether one should participate in a clinical trial is a personal decision and should be based upon a full understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of the trial. One should discuss the trial with a health-care team and ask how this trial might be different from the treatment one would usually receive.

Someone should never be forced to participate in a clinical trial or be involved in a trial without full understanding of the trial and a written and signed consent.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/5/2015


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