Six out of every seven women with a family history of breast cancer choose not to take tamoxifen as a preventative measure, according to a study funded by Cancer Research UK and published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.
For the multicentre study, 732 eligible women attending an appointment at one of 20 centres in England were approached to complete a survey. Of the baseline survey respondents (n=408), 63.2 per cent (n=258) self-reported uptake of tamoxifen at three-months follow-up.
Responses showed that one in seven (14.7%) women initiated tamoxifen. Women who had children were more likely to report use of tamoxifen than those without children (odds ratio [OR] 5.26; 95% CI: 1.13-24.49; P=.035). Social class, educational attainment and ethnicity had no effect on uptake.
Sixteen women participated in semi-structured interviews to identify what influenced their decision to take tamoxifen. The interviews revealed that women weigh up the risks and benefits of tamoxifen within the context of familial commitments. The decision to take tamoxifen was influenced by familial priorities, particularly having children. Exposure to the beliefs of a significant other and experiences of cancer and medication emerged as an important determinant of their decision.
The study is the first of its kind to be carried out since tamoxifen received NICE approval for cancer prevention in women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer.