Original Article

Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 24, Supplement 2, pp 446-450

First online:

The Economic Consequences of Breast Cancer Adjuvant Hormonal Treatments

  • Liliana E. PezzinAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine and Center for Patient Care and Outcomes Research, Medical College of Wisconsin Email author 
  • , Mallory B. O’NielAffiliated withMedical Student, Medical College of Wisconsin
  • , Ann B. NattingerAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine and Center for Patient Care and Outcomes Research, Medical College of Wisconsin

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Adjuvant hormone therapy (HT) based on tamoxifen (TX) or aromatase inhibitors (AIs) has become the standard of care for treating hormone receptor -positive (HR+) breast cancer (BC) over the past 20 years. Based on clinical trial results, AI use is recommended by the American Society of Clinical Oncology for treatment of postmenopausal women with HR+ breast cancer. AIs, however, are significantly more expensive than TX, raising concerns about access and use of effective treatment among women of lower socio-economic status.


To examine the relationship between adjuvant HT modality and experience of financial hardship among a cohort of older BC survivors. Also, to examine the extent to which financial concerns affect the probability of switching between adjuvant HT modalities.


Population-based, prospective survey study.


Elderly (65+) women who had an incident BC surgery in 2003 and who reported receiving adjuvant HT during the first 12 months post-surgery.


Multivariate regression models.


Use of AIs was associated with a significantly higher probability of financial hardship. Women who had taken only an AI were more likely to experience financial difficulty than women who took only TX (OR = 1.4; 95% CI: 1.1–1.7), but women who switched between TX and AI were not more likely to experience financial difficulty. Breast cancer survivors with no drug coverage (OR = 4.5; 95% CI: 3.3–5.9) or partial drug coverage (OR = 3.6; 95% CI: 2.8–4.5) were more likely to experience financial difficulty compared to those with full coverage. Lack of drug coverage was also the main factor associated with the likelihood that BC survivors did not switch adjuvant HT modalities.


Adjuvant HTs have important economic consequences for BC survivors. These consequences are ameliorated by full, but not partial, drug coverage.


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