Breast cancer patients skip follow-ups if they avoid other treatment, study says

Younger women with more prior chronic conditions were the most likely not to follow instructions for breast cancer medications.

By Stephen Feller

NEW YORK, June 17 (UPI) -- Younger women who don't follow their doctor's instruction on treatment for other chronic conditions are less likely to do so for follow-up breast cancer treatment, according to a recent study.

Researchers at Columbia University found women who do not properly use medications prescribed to them for conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure are twice as likely to not properly take potentially life-extending drugs for cancer.


Identifying patients at highest risk for non-adherence to instruction on breast cancer drugs could lead to interventions preventing patients from sabotaging their own treatment.

"This finding revealed that those who are non-adherent to chronic medications are at increased risk for non-adherence to hormone therapy and could benefit from vigilance and possible future interventions," Dr. Alfred Neugut, a professor cancer research and epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, said in a press release.

For the study, published in the journal JAMA Oncology, researchers analyzed medical records for 21,255 women over age 18 who'd been diagnosed with breast cancer and filled two or more prescriptions for tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor between January 2010 and December 2012.


Overall, 15.6 percent of women were nonadherent to prescription instructions, with higher cost and increased comorbidities linked to not taking drugs as prescribed.

For women with at least one prior chronic condition -- hypertension, hyperlipidemia, gastroesophageal reflux, thyroid disease, diabetes or osteoporosis -- who took their drugs, about 9.8 percent were not adherent to breast cancer drugs, while roughly 23.1 percent of women with a history of nonadherence did not take drugs properly.

"Given the fact that medications used in oncology are potentially life-saving or life-prolonging, it is surprising that non-adherence to these medications is common," Neugut said.

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