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Tamoxifen (Brand Names: Nolvadex, Soltamox)

Tamoxifen is the oldest and most-prescribed selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM). Tamoxifen is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat:

women and men diagnosed with hormone-receptor-positive, early-stage breast cancer after surgery (or possibly chemotherapy and radiation) to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back (recurring)

women and men diagnosed with advanced-stage or metastatic hormone-receptor-positive disease


Tamoxifen is used to treat breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (metastatic breast cancer), to treat breast cancer in certain patients after surgery and radiation therapy, and to reduce the chances of breast cancer in high-risk patients.

This medication can block the growth of breast cancer. It works by interfering with the effects of estrogen in the breast tissue.

What side effects can this medication cause?

Tamoxifen may cause side effects. Tell your doctor if any of these symptoms are severe or do not go away:

  • increased bone or tumor pain
  • pain or reddening around the tumor site
  • hot flashes
  • nausea
  • excessive tiredness
  • dizziness
  • depression

Tamoxifen as breast cancer treatment

Treatment with tamoxifen lowers the risk of :

  • Breast cancer recurrence
  • Breast cancer in the opposite breast
  • Death from breast cancer

Tamoxifen is a pill taken every day for 5-10 years. For premenopausal women, tamoxifen may be combined with ovarian suppression.

Other warnings

Cataracts warning: Tamoxifen can increase the risk of getting cataracts or needing cataract surgery. Tell your doctor if you have blurred vision. This may mean that you have cataracts and you may need surgery. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of this drug.

Liver problems warning: This drug may increase your risk of liver problems. The signs of liver problems include loss of appetite and yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes. Tell your doctor if you have these symptoms. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of this drug.

Blood thinners warning: If you’re taking a blood thinner medication, tamoxifen can increase the amount of the drug in your body. This may make it easier for you to bleed. If you have ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) or a history of blood clots and you must take a blood thinner, you shouldn’t use tamoxifen.

Call your doctor: You should contact your doctor right away if you have any of the following symptoms. Some of these symptoms may suggest that you’re experiencing a rare but serious side effect associated with tamoxifen:

  • new breast lumps
  • vaginal bleeding
  • changes in your menstrual cycle
  • changes in vaginal discharge
  • pelvic pain or pressure

The benefits from tamoxifen last long after you stop taking it.