According to Breastcancer.org , approximately 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer; that is about 12% of women. It is expected that in 2019 an estimated 268,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women and 2,670 cases in men.
Tamoxifen is the most-prescribed selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM) used in the treatment of breast cancer.
Used to treat breast cancer and reduce the chance of breast cancer in patients who are at a high risk for developing breast cancer, generic tamoxifen is a synthetic non-steroidal antiestrogen; a hormone therapy medication which prevents estrogen from encouraging the growth of breast cancer cells. It does this by attaching to the hormone receptors in cancer cells, which then blocks estrogen from attaching to the receptor. The result is that the tumor growth is stopped or slowed down because it cannot get access to the hormone (estrogen) it needs in order to grow.
Tamoxifen is used to treat the following conditions:
- Cancer of the ovary/ovaries
- Cancer in the lining of the uterus
- Metastatic breast carcinoma
- Intraductal breast cancer
- Hormone receptor positive breast cancer
- Prevention of breast cancer in women who are at high risk for developing cancer
How is tamoxifen taken?
It is important to follow your doctor’s guidelines when taking tamoxifen.
Taken once or twice a day, this medication is usually taken for a five year period unless specified otherwise by your doctor. The dose is based upon your response to treatment and your medical diagnosis.
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Tamoxifen should be taken at the same time every day. Those with breast cancer which has spread to other parts of the body may notice an increase in pain or disease flare-ups when therapy is first begun with tamoxifen. Any symptoms such as increased tumor size, new tumors, or increased bone pain should be reported to your doctor quickly.
What are the side effects of tamoxifen?
While some people who take this medication may experience mild to no serious side effects, here are some of the known side effects which may occur:
- Leg cramps
- Muscle pain
- Hot flashes
- Loss of sexual ability or interest
You should tell your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following side effects:
- Change in vision
- Eye pain
- Swelling of feet or ankles
- Signs of liver disease (yellowing eyes and skin, stomach pain, non-stop vomiting or nausea)
- Mood change
- Extreme fatigue
This is not a complete list of side effects, so speak to your doctor and pharmacist about what other side affects you may experience.
Certain medications may interfere with tamoxifen, such as SSRI antidepressants, medications used to prevent seizures, blood thinners, hormonal forms of birth control, and others. Speak to your pharmacist and let them know what medications and supplements you are taking.
Some test results for other conditions, such as thyroid tests, may be affected by tamoxifen, so always tell the people doing your blood work at the laboratory that you are taking tamoxifen.
Want more information about breast cancer? Breastcancer.org is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 2000 by breast oncologist Marisa C. Weiss, M.D. This organization hosts and manages the world’s largest breast cancer peer community with over 219,000 registered members. Visit www.breastcancer.org for more information.
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This article contains medical information provided to help you better understand this particular medical condition or process, and may contain information about medication often used as part of a treatment plan prescribed by a doctor. It is not intended to be used as either a diagnosis or recommendation for treatment of your particular medical situation. If you are unwell, concerned about your physical or mental state, or are experiencing symptoms you should speak with your doctor or primary health care provider. If you are in medical distress please contact emergency services (such as 911).