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Managing arthralgia in a postmenopausal woman taking an aromatase inhibitor for hormone-sensitive early breast cancer: a case study

Authors Bryce J, Bauer M, Hadji P

Received 24 December 2011

Accepted for publication 8 February 2012

Published 29 March 2012 Volume 2012:4 Pages 105—111


Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Jane Bryce1, Martina Bauer2, Peyman Hadji2

1National Cancer Institute, Naples, Italy; 2Philipps University of Marburg, Marburg, Germany

Background: In order to reduce the risk of recurrence, adjuvant treatment with an aromatase inhibitor (AI) is recommended for postmenopausal women following surgery for hormone receptor-positive breast cancer. AIs are associated with improved disease-free survival compared with tamoxifen. The adverse events associated with AIs resemble those of menopause, such as bone density loss and musculoskeletal symptoms.
Purpose: We examine the case of a postmenopausal woman who was prescribed anastrozole, a nonsteroidal AI, as adjuvant therapy following surgery for estrogen and progesterone receptor-positive (ER and PgR+) breast cancer.
Methods and sample: A 58-year-old postmenopausal woman diagnosed with ER and PgR+ breast cancer was prescribed anastrozole as adjuvant therapy following a right-inferior quadrantectomy. After experiencing joint pain and stiffness, she was prescribed paracetamol and a topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. She was also counseled on nonpharmacological interventions. However, she continued to experience symptoms, and reported that she was not taking anastrozole regularly.
Results: The case study patient ultimately found relief by switching to letrozole, another aromatase inhibitor. This approach is supported by recent studies examining the benefits of switching strategies between aromatase inhibitors in order to relieve symptoms of arthralgia/myalgia.
Conclusions: Both adherence and strategies for managing aromatase inhibitor-associated arthralgia are key to deriving maximal clinical benefit from AI therapy. Switching from one aromatase inhibitor to another may provide a viable option in managing adverse events and enhancing adherence to medication.

Keywords: adherence, anastrozole, aromatase inhibitor, arthralgia, breast cancer, letrozole

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