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Tamoxifen is a medication physicians prescribe to treat breast cancer. Tamoxifen is not a cure for breast cancer, but scientists believe Tamoxifen can help slow the progression of breast cancer and that Tamoxifen encourages remission of breast cancer. There is some controversy as to which type of breast cancer patients will truly benefit from Tamoxifen treatment.
Typically doctors prescribe Tamoxifen for treatment of invasive breast cancer, which is the most common type of breast cancer. Patients with invasive breast cancer receive Tamoxifen treatment following traditional radiation and chemotherapy treatment.
Women at high risk for developing invasive breast cancer may also receive preventative treatment with Tamoxifen. Some women who have surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation for the treatment of ductal carcinoma in situ, which is a less common form of breast cancer, will receive Tamoxifen treatment. Women who have dutal carcinoma in situ are in a high-risk category for development of invasive breast cancer later on. Studies show that the number of women who were at risk of developing invasive breast cancer in the next five years was cut in half with Tamoxifen treatment following their traditional cancer treatments.
Tamoxifen is an estrogen blocker therapy. The hormone estrogen feeds breast cancer tumors. With Tamoxifen treatment blocks estrogen production therefore estrogen is unavailable to feed the cancerous tumor of the breast.
Sometimes doctors will prescribe Tamoxifen to stimulate ovulation in some women.
Tamoxifen can cause strokes, blood clots in the legs or lungs and uterine cancer, but the instances of this are very rare. Seek immediate medical attention if symptoms of stroke or blood clots in the legs or lungs develop. The symptoms include weakness on one side of the body, slurred speech, confusion, shortness of breath, chest pain, sudden vision changes and calf pain or swelling.
Seek medical attention if symptoms of cancer of the uterus develop. The symptoms include unusual vaginal discharge, unusual changes in monthly menstruation and pain or pressure below the naval.
Women with a history of blood clots should discuss the risks of taking Tamoxifen with their doctor. Women should tell their doctor and pharmacist if they have a history of high cholesterol, limited mobility or an inability to walk, high blood pressure, diabetes, cataracts, liver disease or if they smoke.
Women using Tamoxifen should use two non-hormonal forms of birth control while taking the medication and for two months after completing Tamoxifen treatment. Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should not take Tamoxifen.
Tamoxifen is an oral medication that patient can take with or without food. Women can take Tamoxifen one or two times a day for about five years to help prevent the development of invasive breast cancer or to help treat existing invasive breast cancer. Doctors use the knowledge of their patient's current medical condition and their patient's response to therapy to determine the correct dosage amount of Tamoxifen.
Common side effects of Tamoxifen treatment include thinning hair, hot flashes, nausea and headache. Seek immediate medical attention for these symptoms vision changes, eye pain, easy bruising or bleeding, mood changes, swelling of ankles or legs, tiredness, dark urine, yellowing eyes or skin, persistent vomiting or nausea, fever, sore throat or other signs of infection.
Allergic reactions are rare. Immediate medical attention is necessary if a rash develops, or if itching, swelling, severe dizziness or difficulty breathing develops.
Women taking blood thinners, estrogen, hormonal birth control, phenobarbital, rifamycins or St. John's Wart should tell their doctor and their physician about the medications they are currently taking. Women currently taking anastrozole or letrozole should not take Tamoxifen.
Tamoxifen may interfere with some laboratory tests so it is important to notify all doctors and laboratory technicians about the Tamoxifen treatment.
Symptoms of overdose include unsteady walking, shaking, fainting and irregular heartbeat. Women with symptoms of overdose should seek immediate medical attention.
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