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289,000 women in England have been given access to a medication that can reduce their chances of developing breast cancer by 50%.

Nearly 300,000 women who have an increased risk of developing breast cancer will now have access to a medication that can reduce their risk by 50%, marking a significant advancement in the battle against this condition.

According to NHS leaders, starting Tuesday, approximately 289,000 women in England who have a moderate or high likelihood of developing breast cancer will have access to a tablet that may help prevent its onset.

The medication known as anastrozole is now being offered to women at higher risk due to being postmenopausal and having a significant family history of the most prevalent type of cancer in Britain. The NHS leader stated that it shows promising potential in decreasing the likelihood of developing this illness.

In the United Kingdom, approximately 56,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer annually, equivalent to about 150 diagnoses per day. Although the survival rates have seen improvement, it still results in the loss of approximately 11,500 lives every year.

Amanda Pritchard, the chief executive of NHSC England, expressed excitement about the potential for this crucial risk-reducing option to benefit numerous women and their loved ones by preventing the emotional toll of a breast cancer diagnosis. The medication will be administered in the form of a 1mg tablet taken daily for a period of five years.

Reworded: The decision to provide anastrozole to all qualifying women marks a potential breakthrough in combatting major causes of death in Britain. This is significant as it is the first instance of repurposing a drug, originally used for treatment, to now also prevent the same disease.

Some people may not complete the full five-year course of medication due to experiencing side effects such as hot flashes, weakness, joint pain or stiffness, and arthritis. Additional side effects may include skin rash, nausea, headaches, fragile bones, and depression.

The effectiveness of the pill in preventing cases depends on the number of women who choose to use it. According to NHS England, if only 25% of the 289,000 newly eligible women take the pill, it could potentially prevent 2,000 diagnoses of the disease.

The NHS advises post-menopausal women who have a family history of early-onset breast cancer or multiple relatives with the disease to seek treatment. Initially, they should consult their GP who may refer them to a breast cancer or family history clinic.

Anastrozole is classified as an aromatase inhibitor, functioning to decrease the production of the hormone estrogen in a woman’s body by obstructing the enzyme known as aromatase.

The NHS in England can provide the medication as it has been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency for use as a preventative treatment.

Pritchard stated that licensing anastrozole for a new purpose is a significant step towards providing all women with the opportunity to live a healthier life without the risk of breast cancer. This achievement is truly remarkable and it is hoped that it will pave the way for more individuals to benefit from this risk-reducing option.

Health professionals specializing in this illness are optimistic that the drug’s accessibility will encourage women at risk to utilize it. According to Baroness Delyth Morgan, the chief executive of the charity Breast Cancer Now, the expansion of anastrozole’s license to include its use as a preventative treatment is a significant advancement that will allow more eligible women with a strong family history of breast cancer to decrease their likelihood of developing the disease.

According to Dr. David Crosby, who leads the efforts in prevention and early detection at Cancer Research UK, there is a pressing need for strategies that can aid in preventing high-risk individuals from developing breast cancer. Therefore, this announcement is a positive development.

“We played a crucial role in the development of aromatase inhibitors, a type of medication. A decade ago, our clinical study demonstrated that anastrozole has the potential to reduce the risk of breast cancer in women by 50%, while causing minimal side effects.”

Anastrozole is the initial outcome of the groundbreaking Medicines Repurposing Programme, in which a group of prominent medical organizations are exploring the possibility of repurposing existing medications for alternative uses.

During the pandemic, this method was utilized and resulted in the use of tocilizumab, an arthritis medication, and dexamethasone, a steroid, as therapies for Covid-19.

In the future, women who experience vaginal bleeding and are at risk for womb cancer may not have to undergo a painful surgical biopsy. This is thanks to a new test created by a renowned specialist in women’s cancer.

The WID-qEC examination, created by Professor Martin Widschwendter from University College London, is a more precise method for excluding uterine cancer compared to imaging. Based on research co-funded by the charity Eve Appeal and published in the Lancet Oncology, the test could potentially eliminate the need for 90% of menopausal women to undergo a biopsy for diagnosis or ruling out of the disease.

According to Widschwendter, the test will be released for purchase in Austria and Switzerland by the beginning of 2024 and may also be available in the UK shortly after.

Athena Lamnisos, the CEO of the Eve Appeal, stated that numerous women who undergo a hysteroscopy and biopsy for abnormal bleeding experience significant discomfort and then have to endure a distressing wait for the results.

She expressed her appreciation for the progress made in saving women from the pain of tests and reducing the wait time for cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Source: theguardian.com