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Researchers find why many breast cancer patients quit medications

Category: Breast

Following lab testing that indicates the presence of breast cancer, many women are prescribed medications known as aromatase inhibitors. However, these drugs can have very powerful side effects that may prevent patients from following through on their treatment as prescribed by their doctor, according to a new study.

A team of researchers from Northwestern University surveyed groups of breast cancer patients about their experiences on medications. The results showed that those taking aromatase inhibitors experienced high rates of joint pain, hot flashes, decreased libido, fatigue, night sweats and anxiety. These were the most common side effects that prompted women to stop taking their medications.

The results also showed that few patients actually tell their physicians the full extent of their side effects. This may make it difficult for a doctor to judge if the treatment is progressing successfully or if a new approach is needed.

"Clinicians consistently underestimate the side effects associated with treatment," said lead researcher Lynne Wagner. "They give patients a drug they hope will help them, so they have a motivation to underrate the negative effects. Patients don't want to be complainers and don't want their doctor to discontinue treatment."

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