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New guidelines from NICE - the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence - recommending the use of drugs as a preventative against breast cancer have been called a ‘game changer’ by leading UK charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer.
Published today (25/06/13), the guidelines will give women at higher risk of developing breast cancer a valuable new preventative option, by recommending for the first time the use of drugs such as tamoxifen be taken for five years as a risk-reducing measure.
The guidelines also recommend making genetic screening more widely available to those at higher risk of developing breast cancer - including women who have, or have had breast cancer, or those who are likely to have a genetic mutation, but for whom a sample from a living relative is not available.
Breakthrough has worked closely with NICE on the development of these guidelines, contributing through two patient representatives on the Guideline Development Group (GDG).
Welcoming the guidelines, Dr Caitlin Palframan, Assistant Head of Policy at Breakthrough Breast Cancer and a member of the GDG, said: “Today’s new guidelines are a game changer in the way we prevent breast cancer. Our strongest tool in the fight against breast cancer is prevention, and these new guidelines are a fantastic leap forward in the way we prevent breast cancer developing in those at highest risk.
“It is so important that people have an array of options available to them to assess and manage their own breast cancer risk. And for those at highest risk, which we must remember is a relatively small number of people in the population, it is equally vital that their options go beyond screening or surgery; through the use of preventative medicine, these new guidelines will help achieve this.
“From here the next challenge is ensuring the NHS is equipped to deliver on the promise of these recommendations; more screening, genetic testing and better preventative options for those few people at highest risk, and Breakthrough will be working to ensure that patients get the benefit of these incredibly valuable guidelines.”
Of the 50,000 and 400 men who are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK each year, approximately one in five are associated with a family history of the disease. One in 20 cases of breast cancer are associated with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes – the faulty gene carried by Angelina Jolie – which can lead to a breast cancer risk as high as 90 per cent in some women.