Breast cancer prevention medications

Powerful drugs pose benefit to high-risk women

Published On: Mar 06 2014 09:38:50 PM EST   Updated On: Mar 07 2014 06:45:00 AM EST
MIAMI, Fla. -

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, powerful prescription medications that can reduce the odds in women at high risk for the disease.

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

"But it can also decrease the risk of invasive and In Situ cancer which is like the pre cancer," explained Dr. Mazine Chang, a breast specialist.

A family history put Roni Fertig at high 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," said Fertig.

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

"It's actually a five year protocol so I'm going to be done this April," added Fertig.

Doctors say the benefit of taking the drugs lasts beyond the five year protocol, giving patients an on-going protective shield against this deadly disease.