Guiding Women's Cancer Prevention Steps

Breast cancer prevention measures well understood through online guide

(RxWiki News) Did you know that if you're at high risk of developing breast cancer, there are drugs you can take to cut your risks in half? Would it be helpful for you to have a computer program that could guide you as you decide what's best for you?

Researchers learned that women responded very well to a computer-based program that guided them through information about two drugs - tamoxifen and Evista (raloxifene) - that can help prevent breast cancer

Women who had viewed the guide tended to take action and feel comfortable about their decision, according to research presented at the Society for Behavioral Medicine 33rd Annual Meeting and Scientific Sessions.

"Learn about interactive tools that can help you make treatment decisions."

A customized web-based tool dubbed "Guide to Decide" was developed just for this study. The program contained general information about breast cancer, along with tailored information on a woman's individual five-year breast cancer risks.

All the participants carried higher than normal risks of developing breast cancer; they had all gone through menopause and were between the ages of 40 and 74.

The guide explained the risks and benefits of two medications that have been shown to help prevent breast cancer.

This guide is based on the Study of Tamoxifen and Raloxifene (STAR) was the largest breast cancer prevention trial in history, involving 19,737 women. The five-year study found that women taking either drug cut their breast cancer risks by 50 percent. Raloxifene also lowered the incidence of uterine cancer by 39 percent among participants.

A total of 609 women were randomly assigned to interact with the guide. They were asked after viewing and three months later about their decision to begin preventive treatment and how they felt about the decision.

Researchers found the women were significantly less uncertain about deciding whether to take the medications.

Study first author Matthew (Mateo) P. Banegas, M.P.H., M.S. said, "Since the decision to use tamoxifen or raloxifene to prevent breast cancer is based on each woman's preferences, with no single right or wrong answer, the intervention enabled each woman to weigh the relative risks and benefits for herself and make a decision that aligned with her own values and preferences."

Banegas is a doctoral candidate at the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. 

Tailoring the information to a woman's age and race helped to personalize the guide, according to Angela Fagerlin, PhD, associate professor of internal medicine and co-director of the Center for Bioethics and Social Sciences in Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School.

Additional studies will analyze the level of risks and benefits patients can absorb and process without becoming overwhelmed.

All research is considered preliminary before it's published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute Biobehavioral Cancer Prevention and Control Training Program at the University of Washington, and the National Cancer Institute Center for Hispanic Health Promotion Training Program at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

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Review Date: 
April 16, 2012