For years, doctors have been advising their patients to take aspirin daily to decrease their chances of having a heart attack or stroke. Now there's another reason:
A study published in the “Journal of Clinical Oncology” shows that women who are breast cancer survivors can cut their risk of dying from the disease by 50 percent when they take a daily low-dose aspirin. They also have a 50 percent lower risk of their breast cancer spreading.
Dr. Cynara Coomer, a breast surgeon and Fox News contributor, answered some questions on this ground-breaking study for FoxNewsHealth.com.
Q: Based on this study, would you start using aspirin in your practice now?
A: Provided that they didn’t have any other risk factors that would make taking aspirin dangerous for them.
Q: How do the ingredients in aspirin affect breast cancer tumors?
A: As far as the study shows now, it is believed that the anti-inflammatory properties of aspirin help with breast cancer tumors.
Q: Does taking aspirin daily have the same effect for both estrogen-positive tumors and non-hormone cancer?
A: According to this new study, yes, it is beneficial to both women who have estrogen receptor positive tumors and estrogen receptor negative tumors.
Q: Is this aspirin regimen recommended only for women who have had breast cancer, or could it be a preventative measure for women at high risk also?
A: Well, the 4,000 women in this study started taking the daily aspirin regimen prior to the development of breast cancer. They were taking it for the prevention of heart disease. For those who developed breast cancer, they had the added benefits of less cancer spreading and less chance of death due to the disease. So both groups of women, whether they have had breast cancer or not, would benefit from this.
Q: Should women currently in treatment for breast cancer be taking aspirin?
A: Women shouldn’t be taking aspirin if they are undergoing radiation or surgery. There are major risk factors there like bleeding of the stomach lining, or bleeding from the wound area. The current effects aspirin has on patients receiving chemotherapy treatments would depend on the chemotherapy agents being used. They would need to talk to their oncologist. But, once they are finished with any cancer treatment, including radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery, they could begin taking aspirin.
Q: Would women who suffered from a later stage of breast cancer benefit from daily aspirin?
A: There is potential that later stage breast cancer patients could benefit from aspirin. Further studies need to be done. The most important thing right now is determining the mechanism in the aspirin that is beneficial and taking that specific mechanism to test it on others.
Q: What other benefits does aspirin have besides lowering a woman’s breast cancer death rate?
A: Aspirin is most known for its heart benefits. It decreases inflammation in the coronary blood vessels to prevent heart attack. It helps with inflammation and plaque in the carotid artery, preventing a stroke. Aspirin has also proven beneficial to colon cancer prevention.
Q: Do the potential benefits outweigh the risks?
A: For many people, yes, the benefits of aspirin outweigh the risks of taking it.
Q: Can women with breast cancer take aspirin instead of conventional cancer therapy treatments?
A: No one should make a decision on their own to choose alternative health care over conventional health care, especially when it comes to breast cancer. Every patient needs to talk with their doctor and determine what treatments work for them. However, taking aspirin should only be used as a supplementary treatment in addition to conventional cancer treatment, as an added benefit. We won’t know more until further studies are conducted.