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Postoperative tamoxifen for ductal carcinoma in situ


Staley, H., McCallum, I. and Bruce, J.

Subject Keywords: To assess the effects of postoperative tamoxifen in women having local surgical resection of DCIS
Topic: Cancer
Chronic Conditions
Chronic Conditions
Type: Article
Region: International (other)

Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a type of early breast cancer. It has no symptoms but is mostly detected by mammography screening. This type of 'pre' cancer is treated with surgery (e.g. mastectomy or lumpectomy), often in combination with radiotherapy. Some women are also given oral hormone tablets (tamoxifen), but it is unclear whether adding tamoxifen hormone treatment after surgery gives any added benefit. This review examined whether tamoxifen after local excision prevented any further episodes of cancer and whether women taking tamoxifen lived longer compared to those who did not take hormone therapy after local excision.

The authors' findings are based on two large studies with 3375 participants and should be applicable to most women having treatment for DCIS. Overall tamoxifen did reduce the number of future cancers or DCIS in either breast. However, women taking tamoxifen did not live longer than those who did not take it. A total of 15 women would have to take tamoxifen after treatment of DCIS for one woman to experience a benefit (i.e. no future cancers or DCIS in either breast after taking tamoxifen for five years). There are side effects of tamoxifen treatment such as blood clotting problems (stroke, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism) and endometrial cancer. However, no risk/benefit conclusions are possible because there was limited information about the side effects in this review. The effects of tamoxifen may have been 'diluted' by the effects of radiotherapy. This review cannot recommend which women might have more benefit from using tamoxifen in terms of age, menopausal status or type of DCIS (oestrogen receptor (ER)-positive versus ER-negative or human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-positive or HER2-negative DCIS).



Rights: © The Cochrane Collaboration
Suggested citation:

Staley, H., McCallum, I. and Bruce, J.. (2012) Postoperative tamoxifen for ductal carcinoma in situ [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 16th June 2019].


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