Breast cancer prevention

By Lauren Freeman - Anchor

HOUSTON - One in eight American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. It's the second leading cause of cancer death in women. But, in some cases, it can actually be prevented with drug therapy.

Angelina Jolie made headlines when she announced her decision to remove her breasts in an effort to lower her risk for breast cancer. But doctors say many women are passing up a far less invasive option in the form of powerful prescription medications that can reduce the odds in women at high risk for the disease.

Tamoxifen, Evista and Exemestane have a long history of safety and effectiveness, but doctors say many women resist taking them because of the side effects, which can include hot flashes, weight gain and the potential to develop blood clots.

Roni Fertig has a family history of breast cancer that puts her at a higher risk.

"When my mom got it I don't think I gave it much thought. But, when my sister got it that's when I became concerned about being high risk," Fertig said.

Even so, she resisted the idea of taking medication. After one scare in early 2009, she changed her mind. Since her doctor put her on Tamoxifen, all her screenings have come back "clear."

The benefit of taking the drugs lasts beyond a typical five-year protocol, which gives patients an on-going protective shield against this deadly disease. 

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