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What Does Letrozole Do

what does letrozole do

Uses

This medication is used to treat certain types of breast cancer (such as hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer) in women after menopause. Letrozole is also used to help prevent the cancer from returning. Some breast cancers are made to grow faster by a natural hormone called estrogen. Letrozole decreases the amount of estrogen the body makes and helps to slow or reverse the growth of these breast cancers.

How to use Letrozole

Read the Patient Information Leaflet provided by your pharmacist before you start using letrozole and each time you get a refill. If you have any questions, consult your doctor or pharmacist.

Take this medication by mouth, usually once daily with or without food or as directed by your doctor.

Dosage is based on your medical condition and response to treatment.

Use this medication regularly to get the most benefit from it. To help you remember, take it at the same time each day.

Since this drug can be absorbed through the skin and lungs, women who are pregnant should not handle this medication or breathe the dust from the tablets. (See also Precautions section.)

Inform your doctor right away if your condition worsens (such as you get new breast lumps).

How is letrozole taken?

Letrozole is a tablet (2.5mg) that you take once a day. It can be taken with or without food.

It’s best to take it at the same time every day. If you miss a dose, you don’t need to take an extra dose the next day as the level of drug in your body will remain high enough from the previous day. If for any reason you want to stop taking letrozole talk to your specialist first. This is because not taking the drug for the recommended time means you may increase your risk of your breast cancer coming back.

Sometimes it may be possible to change to another hormone tablet.

How does letrozole work?

Letrozole is typically taken once a day for five days. When you take the drug, it stops androgens in your body from converting into estrogen. When estrogen is blocked, the pituitary gland gets a message that it needs to produce follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which stimulates the ovary to produce an egg. Some women on letrozole actually release more than one egg because they produce more FSH while on letrozole than a woman produces when ovulating naturally.

Letrozole side effects

Letrozole works based on its ability reduce estrogen levels. Low estrogen levels of any cause can cause a woman to have symptoms. The data on side effects comes from women who have been using letrozole for an extended period of time in order to treat breast cancer. The treatment duration for letrozole is only five days. In our experience, we have seen side effects that are similar to those seen with clomiphene citrate:

  • Hot flashes
  • Headaches
  • Breast tenderness

When is letrozole prescribed?

Letrozole is used to treat post-menopausal women with oestrogen receptor positive primary breast cancer. Taking letrozole helps reduce the chance of breast cancer returning in the same breast or spreading somewhere else in the body. It can also reduce the chances of developing a new breast cancer in the same or opposite breast.

It’s usually given after surgery (known as adjuvant treatment) and following chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy.

Sometimes letrozole is prescribed for primary breast cancer to reduce the size of the cancer before surgery (known as neo-adjuvant endocrine therapy). Before treatment starts, a small metal clip (or marker) may be placed in the area of the breast where the cancer is. This is because in some people the cancer may become difficult to see on a mammogram or ultrasound if it reduces in size, so the marker helps the surgeon find the area again before surgery.

Letrozole may also be prescribed if surgery is not an option for you, for example, if you are not able to have surgery due to other medical conditions. The treatment will not get rid of the breast cancer but can slow its growth and in some people may shrink it.

It can be used to treat breast cancer that comes back in the chest/breast area (known as local recurrence) or surrounding area (known as locally advanced or regional recurrence). It can also be prescribed if you are diagnosed with secondary breast cancer.

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