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Side Effects Of Tamoxifen

Side Effects Of Tamoxifen

Tamoxifen

Tamoxifen, sold under the brand name Nolvadex among others, is a medication that is used to prevent breast cancer in women and treat breast cancer in women and men. It is also being studied for other types of cancer.It has been used for Albright syndrome. Tamoxifen is typically taken daily by mouth for five years for breast cancer.

Serious side effects include a small increased risk of uterine cancer, stroke, vision problems, and pulmonary embolism. Common side effects include irregular periods, weight loss, and hot flashes.It may cause harm to the baby if taken during pregnancy or breastfeeding. It is a selective estrogen-receptor modulator (SERM) and works by decreasing the growth of breast cancer cells. It is of the triphenylethylene group.

What This Drug Is Used For:

Tamoxifen may be given as adjuvant therapy (treatment after successful surgery) in women or men with lymph node negative or lymph node positive breast cancer.  Cancers with positive estrogen and progesterone receptors are more likely to benefit from tamoxifen.  Tamoxifen reduces the risk of getting breast cancer in the opposite breast.

Tamoxifen may be prescribed in metastatic (cancer that has spread) breast cancer in both women and men.

Tamoxifen may be prescribed in women with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) who have completed surgery and radiation therapy.  Tamoxifen may reduce the risk of invasive breast cancer.  Risks and benefits of tamoxifen therapy should be discussed in this setting.

Tamoxifen may be prescribed for women at high risk of breast cancer to reduce the incidence of developing breast cancer.  Risks and benefits of tamoxifen therapy should be discussed in this setting.

Tamoxifen may also be prescribed for treatment of ovarian cancer.

Note:  If a drug has been approved for one use, physicians may elect to use this same drug for other problems if they believe it may be helpful.

How This Drug Is Given:

Tamoxifen is a pill, given by mouth.  The pill should be swallowed whole. 

Tamoxifen should be taken at about the same time each day with a full glass of water.  If you miss a dose, do not take a double dose the next day.

The amount of tamoxifen that you will receive depends on many factors, including your general health or other health problems, and the type of cancer or condition being treated.  Your doctor will determine your dose, schedule and duration of treatment.

Side Effects:

Important things to remember about the side effects of tamoxifen:

  • Most people do not experience all of the side effects listed.
  • Side effects are often predictable in terms of their onset and duration.
  • Side effects are almost always reversible and will go away after treatment is complete.
  • There are many options to help minimize or prevent side effects.
  • There is no relationship between the presence or severity of side effects and the effectiveness of the medication.

The following side effects are common (occurring in greater than 30%) for patients taking tamoxifen:

  • Hot flashes (see sexuality)
  • Vaginal discharge (see sexuality)
  • Swelling (fluid retention in feet, ankles, or hands)
  • Loss of libido (particularly in men) (see sexuality)

These side effects are less common side effects (occurring in about 10-29%) of patients receiving tamoxifen:

  • Nausea
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Weight loss
  • Mood changes (see anxiety and/or depression)

A rare, but serious side effect of tamoxifen is blood clots, including deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolus.  You should seek emergency help and notify your health care provider immediately if you develop sudden chest pain and shortness of breath.  Notify your health care provider within 24 hours if you notice that one leg is swollen, red, painful and/or warm to touch and the other is not.

A rare, but serious side effect of tamoxifen can be the development of uterine cancer.  Women who have not had a hysterectomy should have regular pap smears and gyn examinations.  Abnormal vaginal bleeding should be reported to your health care provider.

Your fertility, meaning your ability to conceive or father a child, may be affected by tamoxifen.  Please discuss this issue with your health care provider.

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