Breast Cancer Coverage from Every Angle

Preventive Tamoxifen Therapy: Are Women Aware of the Risks Along With the Benefits?

By: Julia Fiederlein
Posted: Monday, April 27, 2020

According to a multicenter survey analysis conducted by Rachael Jane Thorneloe, PhD, of the University of Leeds, United Kingdom, and colleagues, the potential side effects of tamoxifen are not widely known among women at high risk of breast cancer who may be considering this preventive therapy. The results, which were published in Cancer Prevention Research, highlight the importance of counseling women about both potential risks and benefits prior to tamoxifen use.

The side effects of tamoxifen include an increased risk of vasomotor and gynecologic symptoms, thromboembolic events, and endometrial cancer. “We examined women’s knowledge of tamoxifen’s potential harms and benefits and the extent to which knowledge reflects subjective judgments of awareness and decision quality,” the authors stated. A total of 408 women with a “moderately high” or “high” breast cancer risk completed baseline surveys, with 258 providing data at least 3 months after their appointment.

Most women (87.1%) thought they were well-informed about the effects of tamoxifen use; however, just 15.7% were able to identify the potential benefit and three major risks of the drug. Women with higher levels of education were more likely to have this knowledge. Those who were informed of the effects of tamoxifen use (27.9%) were more likely to use the drug than those who were uninformed (12.2%). A large percentage of tamoxifen users (65.8%) did not have knowledge of the benefit and risks. The majority of women (71.1%) reported they received an informational leaflet from their health-care provider; those who did not receive a leaflet or were unsure (10.1%) had less tamoxifen knowledge than woman who did receive a leaflet (17.9%). The authors noted that decisions to use tamoxifen were usually based on incomplete information.

“[Women at increased risk of breast cancer] may need additional support to make informed decisions about tamoxifen preventive therapy,” concluded the authors.

Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit

By continuing to browse this site you permit us and our partners to place identification cookies on your browser and agree to our use of cookies to identify you for marketing. Read our Privacy Policy to learn more.