November 8, 2004 (STAR) When a woman is fighting breast cancer, she is almost always ready to embrace any kind of treatment in the hope that she will get well. In their eagerness to get well, women have to endure numerous side effects which go with breast cancer treatment.

But thanks to letrozole, women now have better chances in conquering breast cancer minus the dreaded side effects. Letrozole is a well-tolerated third- generation aromatase inhibitor (AI), a class of drug which plays an important role in all phases of breast cancer treatment.

Before the introduction of AIs, tamoxifen, a selective estrogen receptor modulator, has been the most widely used hormonal therapy for breast cancer.

However, it is associated with adverse side effects such as nausea, thromboembolic events and vaginal bleeding. Added to these, patients are vulnerable to recurrence of cancer after five years of treatment with tamoxifen.

These unpleasant effects lead to the use of third-generation AIs, whose use is increasing dramatically in the United Kingdom. They have slowly but surely gained their rightful place in breast cancer treatment.

Data from ongoing and completed studies assessing the role of AIs suggest that these agents are more effective and better tolerated than other breast cancer agents.

Letrozole appears to be one of the most potent drugs among the class of AIs. In a study comparing the efficacy of letrozole to anastrozole, another AI, it was found that letrozole is better tolerated and provides better quality of life than anastrozole for women with metastatic breast cancer.

The study by R. Thomas, published in Clinical Oncology in June 2004, showed that more patients taking anastrozole reported lethargy compared to those who took letrozole.

Although both groups reported experiencing hot flashes and nausea, anastrazole was associated with significantly more nausea than letrozole.

Other toxicities experienced frequently by patients receiving anastrazole were headache, joint pain, abdominal discomfort and poor appetite.

With lesser adverse events experienced with letrozole, more patients in the study preferred to continue with letrozole therapy than with anastrozole at the end of the study.

Letrozole is a prescription product and should be bought only at a doctor’s advice.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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