Breast Cancer Drug Study Eliminates Two Causes for Joint Pain, Says Study

November 12, 2012

Breast Cancer Drug Study Eliminates Two Causes for Joint Pain, Says Study

A study on breast cancer drugs discovered that arthritis caused by inflammation and autoimmune disease were not responsible for joint pain in post-menopausal women with breast cancer. The pain may be a side effect of the drugs or a symptom of another illness. Despite these findings, researchers urged women with breast cancer and joint pain to continue taking their medications in order to prevent women from getting cancer again. 35% of women taking these drugs stop because of joint pain which mimics the pain of other serious medical conditions.

The study was done by Georgetown Lomabrdi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University Medical Center on a type of breast cancer drug known as aromatase inhibitors or AIs. The presented their findings at the annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Rheumatology in November of 2011.

Study Specifics

48 women with various stages of breast cancer and unexplained hand pain participated in the study. 25 were on AIs while all of the rest were not. All women stopped taking anti-inflammatory painkillers for 48 hours. Anti-inflammatory painkillers are a common treatment for suspected inflammatory arthritis or pain caused by autoimmune diseases. Anti-inflammatory painkillers are a common treatment for suspected arthritis or pain caused by autoimmune diseases.

4 women were discovered to suffer from an autoimmune disease and did not have to complete the study. Half of this group of women was from each group.

During the study, the women were given blood tests, X-rays, ultrasounds and asked to fill out surveys about how they were feeling. At the end of the study, the group taking AIs still had the same joint pain in the same pain levels as the non-AI drug taking group. If inflammatory arthritis or autoimmune disease was a cause, then pain should have risen dramatically in the women on AI medications. This suggests that joint pain is a normal side effect of AI breast cancer medications.

About AI Medications

AI medications are derived from the hormone estrogen. AIs are taken for five years after women undergo breast cancer treatment such as surgery or radiation. Studies have shown that taking AI drugs keeps cancer from returning. However, a woman needs to take the drugs for a full five years in order to get the best benefits.

Study lead author Victoria K. Shanmugam, MBBS, MCRP noted that more studies need to be done to determine why using AI can cause joint pain in so many post-menopausal women. Shanmugam also stresses that women taking AIs that suddenly develop joint pain should always be checked over by a rheumatologist in order to definitely rule out any type of arthritis.

About Breast Cancer

Breast cancer and skin cancer are the two most common types of cancer that women develop. 1 in every 8 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Breast cancer kills an average of 39,520 American women every year. It is common for breast cancer to come back, even after a woman is declared cured. Most reoccurrences of breast cancer happen within five years of treatment, which is why the study stressed that women should still take AIs for five years despite the development of any pain.

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