Daily Mail

Thousands will have drug on NHS to cut risk of breast cancer

- By Kate Pickles Health Editor

HUNDREDS of thousands of women at risk of breast cancer will be offered a drug to reduce their chances of developing the disease, NHS officials said yesterday.

Anastrozol­e is already used to treat women struck by the illness – but trials have found it can halve the chance of becoming sick in the first place.

The NHS will now offer the hormone therapy as a preventive measure to 289,000 women deemed to be at moderate or high risk. Officials estimate that if a quarter of eligible women in England take up the offer, it could prevent 2,000 cases and save the NHS £15million in treatment costs.

Lesley-Ann Woodhams, 61, from Flixton, Greater Manchester, was offered anastrozol­e for the prevention of breast cancer because of a family history of the disease.

She said: ‘Taking anastrozol­e was an easy decision for me, as I’d watched my mum battle breast cancer and my risk was very high. It reduced my risk of developing breast cancer, meaning I could live a life without constantly worrying or giving a thought to what could be if I’d developed breast cancer.

‘It really was a gift, it gave my family and myself peace of mind and more importantl­y, a continued future to look forward to.

‘I’m grateful for every day I took this drug – it was life-changing. Anastrozol­e has allowed me to continue living my life as I’d planned.’

Breast cancer remains the most common cancer in England, with 47,000 people being diagnosed each year. Advances in screening, treatment and care mean more women are surviving the disease than ever before.

Anastrozol­e, which is a daily tablet, works by cutting down the amount of the hormone oestrogen that a patient’s body makes by blocking an enzyme called aromatase.

It was first recommende­d as a preventive treatment in 2017 but uptake was low because it was not licensed for this use.

But the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has now approved it as a preventive option for post-menopausal women, making it the first medicine to be repurposed through an NHS scheme.

It joins tamoxifen and raloxifene, which are already licensed to prevent breast cancer.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: ‘It’s fantastic this vital riskreduci­ng option could now help thousands of women and their families avoid the distress of a breast cancer diagnosis. We hope that licensing anastrozol­e for a new use today represents the first step to ensuring this riskreduci­ng option can be accessed by all who could benefit.’

Baroness Morgan, of the charity Breast Cancer Now, said the extension of anastrozol­e’s licence was ‘a major step forward’.

‘I am grateful I took it’

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