Breast Cancer Breakthrough

It's been 20 years since the Food and Drug Administration approved a new drug to treat the most common form of early-stage breast cancer. Now, women (and men) with HER2 can take Verzenio, which works by stopping cancer cells from dividing and growing.

Researchers found that adding this drug to hormonal therapy after surgery reduced the recurrence risk by 26-37%, even beyond 2 years. Doctors say this finding has “the potential” to become a new standard of care. Patients will take a 150-milligram pill twice a day in combination with Tamoxifen, Arimidex, Aromasin, or Femara. There are potential side effects, some of which are severe. You may feel very tired, develop an infection, or have blood clots and liver problems, although diarrhea and headaches are more common.

This news also triggered new efforts to deliver breast cancer screening to black women, who are younger when they develop breast cancer and more likely to die from it. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health now suggest black women should get a mammogram twice a year, beginning at age 40. If you aren’t able to afford screening, tell your doctor who may be able to direct you to facilities, foundations and programs that give free services. You can also search for your local mammography center on the FDA website.

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