Thursday, January 3, 2013

Tamoxifen 101

Some types of breast cancer need estrogen in order to grow.  These cancers have receptors, or sites, to where estrogen attaches, promoting cancer growth.  These are known as estrogen receptor-positive cancers.  Tamoxifen blocks the estrogen from binding to these receptors, preventing the breast cancer from growing.  For women with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer (like mine), taking Tamoxifen for 5 years greatly reduces the rick of recurrence and the risk of dying from breast cancer.  Tamoxifen can reduce the chance of getting breast cancer by nearly 50% in women who are at higher risk.

Like with all medicines, this one comes with a long list of potential side effects.  Below are some of them.  
  • Common
    • Hot flashes (whats new - my special friend for the past 6 months)
    • Vaginal dryness or discharge
    • Mild nausea
    • Weight gain/loss
    • Bone pain
    • Dizziness
  • Less Common
    • Risk of blood clot in the lungs or the major veins of the legs
    • Uterine cancer
    • Eye problems
There was a recent study that 10 years of tamoxifen is better then 5 years.  study-ten-years-of-tamoxifen-better-than-five.  I discussed this with my oncologist who said that the recommendation to continue for an additional 5 years will be on a case-by-case basis.  For me it's really too early to say how long I will be taking this.  The possibility of having my ovaries removed in the next 5 years would change the duration, since I would replace Tamoxifen with a different (post menopause) hormone therapy.

Most of the women I have talked to about Tamoxifen all say they hate it.  Hopefully, my side effects will be minimal.

I will be starting this on 1/11/13.

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