JOURNAL ARTICLE

The impact of tamoxifen on breast recurrence, cosmesis, complications, and survival in estrogen receptor-positive early-stage breast cancer

B Fowble, D A Fein, A L Hanlon, B L Eisenberg, J P Hoffman, E R Sigurdson, M B Daly, L J Goldstein
International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics 1996 July 1, 35 (4): 669-77
8690632

PURPOSE: To evaluate the impact of tamoxifen on breast recurrence, cosmesis, complications, overall and cause-specific survival in women with Stage I-II breast cancer and estrogen receptor positive tumors undergoing conservative surgery and radiation.

METHODS AND MATERIALS: From 1982 to 1991, 491 women with estrogen receptor positive Stage I-II breast cancer underwent excisional biopsy, axillary dissection, and radiation. The median age of patient population was 60 years with 21% < 50 years of age. The median follow-up was 5.3 years (range 0.1 to 12.8). Sixty-nine percent had T1 tumors and 83% had histologically negative axillary nodes. Re-excision was performed in 49% and the final margin of resection was negative in 64%. One hundred fifty-four patients received tamoxifen and 337 patients received no adjuvant therapy. None of the patients received adjuvant chemotherapy.

RESULTS: There were no significant differences between the two groups for age, race, clinical tumor size, histology, the use of re-excision, or median total dose to the primary. Patients who received tamoxifen were more often axillary node positive (44% tamoxifen vs. 5% no tamoxifen), and, therefore, a greater percentage received treatment to the breast and regional nodes. The tamoxifen patients less often had unknown margins of resection (9% tamoxifen vs. 22% no tamoxifen). The 5-year actuarial breast recurrence rate was 4% for the tamoxifen patients compared to 7% for patients not receiving tamoxifen (p = 0.21). Tamoxifen resulted in a modest decrease in the 5-year actuarial risk of a breast recurrence in axillary node-negative patients, in those with unknown or close margins of resection, and in those who underwent a single excision. Axillary node-positive patients had a clinically significant decrease in the 5-year actuarial breast recurrence rate (21 vs. 4%; p = 0.08). The 5-year actuarial rate of distant metastasis was not significantly decreased by the addition of adjuvant tamoxifen in all patients or pathologic node-negative patients. Pathologically node-positive patients had a significant decrease in distant metastasis (35 vs. 11%; p = 0.02). There were no significant differences in cause-specific survival for patients receiving tamoxifen when compared to observation (95% no tamoxifen vs. 89% tamoxifen; p = 0.24). Similar findings were noted for pathologically node-negative patients. However, axillary node-positive patients receiving tamoxifen had an improvement in 5-year actuarial cause-specific survival (90% tamoxifen vs. 70% no tamoxifen; p = 0.10). Cosmesis (physician assessment) was good to excellent in 85% of the tamoxifen patients compared to 88% of the patients who did not receive tamoxifen.

CONCLUSION: The addition of tamoxifen to conservative surgery and radiation in women with Stage I-II breast cancer and estrogen receptor positive tumors resulted in a modest but not statistically significant decrease in the 5-year actuarial risk of a breast recurrence. Tamoxifen significantly decreased the 5-year actuarial risk of distant metastasis in axillary node-positive patients and there was a trend towards improvement in cause-specific survival that was not statistically significant. Tamoxifen did not decrease the 5-year actuarial rate of distant metastasis in axillary node negative, patients and in this group, there was no improvement in cause-specific survival. Tamoxifen did not have an adverse effect on cosmesis or complications.

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