Breast Cancer Awareness Month raises visibility and research dollars to address a disease that in the United States claims nearly 40,000 lives annually and affects approximately 240,000 people who each year are newly diagnosed. While the month's activities are important in the fight against breast cancer, they are not designed to directly improve the day-to-day management of the disease. But today, a liquid version of one of the most common drugs prescribed to fight breast cancer, tamoxifen, has for the first time become available in the United States under the brand name Soltamox® (tamoxifen citrate). Soltamox may offer patients who need tamoxifen therapy an important treatment option. Introduced by DARA BioSciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: DARA), a specialty pharmaceutical company focused on oncology and oncology supportive care products, Soltamox, a prescription medication, is expected to be available in pharmacies nationwide starting October 22.
“Many people may not even recognize they have a swallowing difficulty, even as they continue to lose weight or forego medication.”
Why liquid tamoxifen?
According to a 2011 study published in The Lancet, a five-year course of tamoxifen treatment in women with estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer cut their risk of death by about one-third over a 15-year period. Unfortunately, for some people with breast cancer, the pill form of tamoxifen can be difficult to swallow due to a variety of reasons, including the effects of radiation, surgery and chemotherapy. Some people simply prefer liquid medications over pills or hope to reduce the number of pills they need to take on a daily basis.
Liquid medications may be appropriate for people who have difficulty or discomfort swallowing solid content. People who have trouble swallowing pills may miss doses of prescribed medications or discontinue them entirely. "Treatment of breast cancer with tamoxifen is a long-term commitment for patients if they are to have the best chance of preventing the disease from recurring," said oncologist Jivesh Sharma, MD, clinical faculty member at Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Texas. "A liquid version of tamoxifen may help people with breast cancer stay on their tamoxifen therapy."
Swallowing assessment tool
Unfortunately, many people are unaware that the inability to swallow pills and some foods can signal an underlying problem. But swallowing difficulties (sometimes called "dysphagia") may not always be obvious and may include "difficulty chewing solid foods and coughing while or after eating," according to Andrea Aversano, MS, RD, CDN, radiation/oncology dietician with Dyson Center for Cancer Care at Vassar Brothers Medical Center, Poughkeepsie, New York. "Many people may not even recognize they have a swallowing difficulty, even as they continue to lose weight or forego medication." She continued, "That is of particular concern for older, frailer adults or for people with compromised health."
Now a simple 10-question survey is available to help people assess if they may have a swallowing difficulty. The EAT-10 tool is clinically validated and can serve as a catalyst for dialogue with a healthcare provider. EAT-10 can be accessed at www.swallowingdifficulties.org.