DERBYSHIRE: Breast cancer treatment boost under NICE guidelines

HALF a million women with a family history of breast cancer will be offered a five-year course of tablets to slash their risk of getting the disease, under new NHS guidelines.

Tuesday, 25th June 2013, 9:30 am
Wendy Watson, MBE in the new years honours list

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have today issued new recommendations that state women with a three in ten chance of getting the disease should be offered one of two anti-oestrogen drugs, tamoxifen or raloxifene, which have been found to reduce the cancer by 30 per cent to 40 per cent.

Bakewell-based Wendy Watson, who founded the National Hereditary Breast Cancer Helpline in 1996 and was on the NICE committee, said the changes are a “massive milestone” in the treatment of breast cancer.

She said: “It’s a huge step forward. It means that those people who wouldn’t consider surgery have this additional tool to help them.

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“The guidelines also mean they are lowering the threshold for people to get genetic screening, so people no longer have to have a living relative with cancer caused by the mutated gene to get a test.”

The new recommendations mean anyone who has a 10 per cent risk of having inherited one of the two genes that give women a particularly high chance of breast cancer will be offered a blood test. It was previously available only to those with a 20 per cent risk.

But Wendy, who was Britain’s first woman to have a double mastectomy to cut her chances of getting breast cancer, said the one-a-day pills aren’t without their side effects, including hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, nausea and weight gain.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executiver of Breast Cancer Campaign, said: “This is a truly historic moment in the treatment of women at increased breast cancer, as we are witnessing a fundamental change of clinical practice driven by medical research.

“We strongly welcome NICE’s decision to recommend chemoprevention treatments and a broadening of access to genetic testing and surveillance. Having varied options available to women at an increased risk enables more effective prevention, detection and treatment of the disease.”