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Tamoxifen - november 06.qxp
Breast Cancer Care helpline 0808 800 6000
Website www.brea stcancercare.org.uk
How long will I have to take
tamoxifen is, how it works, what the benefits
You will usually take tamoxifen for five years,
What is tamoxifen?
although this time can vary according toindividual circumstances. Some women may
be changed to a different hormone therapy
cancer in both men and women. It is a type
of endocrine or hormone treatment which is
also described as an anti-oestrogen drug.
(exemestane) or Femara (letrozole). Thissometimes happens after less than five years
How does it work?
of tamoxifen, but can also happen at theend of taking tamoxifen. For more
Some breast cancers are stimulated to grow
information, see our Arimidex
, Aromasin (exemestane)
progesterone. There is a test, known as a
hormone receptor test, to discover whetherbreast cancer cells are sensitive to these
What are the side effects of
hormones. If the result is positive it means
that tamoxifen may be suitable for you.
Everyone reacts differently to drugs and some
others. Tamoxifen usually causes only a few
progesterone on cancer cells, stopping them
controllable. It is not common for someone tostop taking tamoxifen because of side effects.
How is tamoxifen taken?
Tamoxifen comes as a tablet or a liquid that
listed below. It is important to remember
recommended dose is 20mg daily. It is bestto take it at the same time every day. If you
Common side effects
miss a dose you don’t need to take an extradose the next day. The level of the drug in
The most common side effects are similar to
your body will remain high enough from the
menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes.
previous day. It is important not to stop
menopausal symptoms see our Menopausal
symptoms and breast cancer
flight, it may be advisable to talk to your
specialist about taking a low-dose aspirin. It
is also advisable to wear flight socks, drink
still having regular periods may find that they
become irregular, lighter or stop completely.
flight and go for a walk after arrival or the
headaches, vaginal irritation or discharge and
If you need to have surgery for any reason,
during their treatment, although there is no
clear evidence linking this weight gain to
Tamoxifen can also affect the lining of the
Tamoxifen can also have an effect on bone
thickness. If you are post-menopausal there
vaginal bleeding, discharge or pain tell your
is evidence that tamoxifen slows down the
process of bone loss, reducing the risk of
polyps or ovarian cysts or, very rarely, cancer
experience thinning of the bones. If you have concerns about this, you may want to
Are there different side effects
discuss it with your specialist. For more
information see our leaflet Bone health and
Men can have similar side effects to thoseexperienced by women, such as hot flushes
Less common or rare side effects
and headaches. A number of small studieshave also noted other side effects, such as
A small number of women notice an increase
decreased sex drive, though this recovered
singing voice. Some women find their hairthins while taking tamoxifen.
Can I take tamoxifen with other
There is a very slight risk of other side effects
that can be more serious such as changes in
concerned about taking any other medicines
Taking tamoxifen also increases the risk of
thrombosis (blood clots). If you have had
blood clots in the past or are at risk of
developing them, then your specialist will
remember that these can have an effect on
your body and should be used with care. The
anti-coagulant, such as warfarin, then your
shown to interact with tamoxifen and it is
anyone taking tamoxifen it is important to
realise this risk and ways you can reduce this.
have an oestrogen or progesterone positive
anti-coagulant and are travelling on a long
herbal preparations on tamoxifen is not fully
Further help from Breast Cancer
understood and you should take the advice
of your specialist and a qualified herbalistbefore taking any.
We hope that you have found this factsheetuseful and informative. For further medical
Fertility and pregnancy
information, emotional support, and details
of our services, call our helpline free on 0808
If you are pre-menopausal your periods may
(textphone 0808 800 6001
become irregular or stop but will usually
Breast Cancer Care’s website has an email
return to their previous pattern when you
enquiries service called Ask the nurse, along
stop taking tamoxifen. You should not get
with forums and live chat sessions where you
pregnant while you are taking tamoxifen so
can share your views with people in a similar
it is very important to use reliable non-
situation. For more information about these
femidoms, a diaphragm or coil (IUD). Even if
your periods stop while you are takingtamoxifen you could still get pregnant, so
In addition, our centres provide one-to-one
you must continue to use contraception.
support and other services, including:Healthy Living Days; Living with Breast
If you are planning to get pregnant after you
Cancer courses; breast prosthesis fitting in
have finished taking tamoxifen, it is advisable
to wait at least two months to allow time for
HeadStrong for people experiencing hair loss
the drug to leave the body completely. You
should talk to your specialist team about the
• North & Midlands
Tel: 0845 077 1893
You may take tamoxifen for some time and it
can be unsettling when you stop taking it.
• London & South
Tel: 0845 077 1895
You may find it helpful to discuss this or any
other concerns with your specialist or breast
Tel: 0845 077 1892 Email:
care nurse. You may also find it helpful to
Tel: 0845 077 1894 Email:
experience to you. You can do this one to
Breast Cancer Care also has a wide range of
information on individual support or support
publications to guide you from diagnosis to
groups in your area call the Breast Cancer
download and order our publications atwww.breastcancercare.org.uk
or call our
helpline on 0808 800 6000
for a printed
Macmillan Cancer Support
89 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7UQ
3 Bath Place, Rivington Street
Macmillan CancerLine: 0808 808 2020Textphone: 0808 808 0121
Email: email@example.comWebsite: www.cancerbackup.org.uk
Macmillan Cancer Support is helping peoplewho are living with cancer through the
information and support charity for people
emotional support. Specialist services include
centres, a range of cancer information and
information booklets and local information
centres. All Cancerbackup services are free to
emotional support. Textphone available.
About Breast Cancer Care
Breast Cancer Care is the UK’s leading provider of information, practical assistance andemotional support for anyone affected by breast cancer. Every year we respond to overtwo million requests for support and information about breast cancer or breast healthconcerns. All our services are free.
We are committed to campaigning for better treatment and support for people withbreast cancer and their families.
For more information visit www.breastcancercare.org.uk
or call the Breast Cancer
Care helpline free on 0808 800 6000
(textphone 0808 800 6001
). Calls may be
monitored for training purposes. Confidentiality is maintained between callers and
Breast Cancer Care.
This factsheet has been produced by Breast Cancer Care’s clinical specialists and reviewed by
healthcare professionals and people affected by breast cancer.
Factsheet Breast Cancer Care 2003. Revised November 2006
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in any formor by any means, without the prior permission in writing of the publishers. 11/06
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