Tamoxifen is the most widely used hormone therapy for treating breast cancer. However, there are certain side effects of this drug, such as menopausal symptoms, formation of blood clots, depression, fatigue, etc. The upcoming article aims at enlightening you in this regard.
Tamoxifen (brand name Nolvadex, also known as Tamoxifen Citrate) is a drug that the doctors have been prescribing for several decades to fight breast cancers that test positive for estrogen receptors. It is a pill that is taken orally, and it works by blocking the effects that the female hormone ‘estrogen’ has on the cancerous cells. It is also known to lower the incidence of cancerous growth in these milk-secreting glandular organs. It has also been found to be effective in preventing the spread of malignant tumor from one bust to the other. Women of all ages can use it, both before and after menopause. In very rare cases, it is used to treat mastalgia (pain in the mammary glands), as it reduces the estrogen levels which is known to cause breast swelling. However, like most other drugs, there are certain fallouts associated that raise health concerns amongst its users.
Working Mechanism of the Drug
Cancer refers to the uncontrolled division of cells. Some breast carcinomas are referred to as estrogen-receptor-positive (ER+). This means that they require estrogen to grow. Tamoxifen acts as an anti-estrogen by competing with the hormone to bind at the estrogen receptor sites in the cancer cells of the milk-secreting glandular organs. By binding to these sites, this drug slows the growth and division of the cancerous cells. Hence, this medicament is also called an ‘anti-estrogen’ or ‘selective estrogen-receptor modifier’ (SERM). Research has shown that this drug is effective in treating only ER+ breast cancers. Therefore, before it is used as a treatment option, the tumor’s hormone receptor status has to be determined. In other cells and tissues, such as bones and uterus, this hormone drug acts like a weak estrogen. It is due to this reason that women may derive the benefits of menopausal estrogen replacement therapy which is believed to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Certain Ill Effects
- This hormone drug causes menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes and irregular periods, in almost 50% of the ladies who consume this medicine. It is usually seen in those females who haven’t yet reached their menopause but are nearing the stage. However, such symptoms may not be exclusively caused by the drug itself.
- An indicant like vaginal discharge may become difficult to cope with, and it can make you feel uncomfortable and reduces the urge for an intercourse.
- You must avoid conceiving while using the drug, as it may cause certain birth defects in the child. You should consider starting a family, a few months after you have completely stopped the intake of this medicine.
- Developing blood clots (deep vein thrombosis) is a possible aftereffect, and 1 in every 100 women run a risk of developing deep vein thrombosis in which a blood clot is formed in a large vein (usually in the legs). Ladies who cannot move around freely, like those recovering from a surgery, are at a greater risk of acquiring this problem. If the clot travels through the blood and reaches the lungs, it may result in dangerous consequences.
- Usage of this drug slightly increases the chances of developing cancer in the lining of the womb. In medical terms, it is referred to as ‘endometrial cancer’. However, very few women are prone to getting inflicted by this condition.
- For those who haven’t yet reached their menopause, tamoxifen may reduce the density of the bones, and in those who have reached this critical juncture, it acts to strengthen the bones.
- Other fallouts include fatigue, difficulty in breathing, nausea, joint pain, and weight loss.
- Some may also have allergic reactions that may manifest as itching, skin rash, swelling, and hives.
Despite its ill effects, this medicine has proved to be extremely beneficial for females whose menstrual cycle has ended.
- This drug helps in lowering the cholesterol levels in women whose menstrual cycle has ended.
- Some studies have shown that those who had taken this drug for 5 years, after they underwent a surgery for early breast cancer, were at a lesser risk of contracting heart diseases for the next 10 years. However, this number (10 years) was less in those females who took the medicine for just two years.
Despite all the various side effects of tamoxifen, doctors recommend this drug for its efficacy in treating and preventing bust carcinoma. The aftereffects may vary amongst different females; however, in a critical situation, it is best to consult a physician at the earliest.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.