NONSTEROIDAL AROMATASE INHIBITORS
Femara is a prescription drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2005 to treat estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Femara is also known by its drug name, Letrozole. Femara is used as an adjuvant, or post-surgical, treatment. It reduces, but does not eliminate, the risk of breast cancer recurring after surgery. Femara is also used as a treatment for advanced breast cancer.
Femara may not be suitable for women of childbearing age. Femara should be used with caution by women with a history of osteoporosis, liver disease or high cholesterol.
About two-thirds of breast cancers are estrogen receptor-positive, meaning that they require estrogen in order to grow. Femara is a member of a class of drugs called nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitors, which block the enzyme that helps produce estrogen. Femara is believed to work by reducing the production of estrogen in the body, thereby slowing the growth of breast cancer.
How do I take it?
Femara is a pill taken orally once a day, either with or without food. It is best to take it at the same time each day.
Your doctor may order regular tests to monitor cholesterol, liver function and bone density while you are taking Femara.
You may need to take Femara for several years.
Always follow your doctor’s instructions exactly when taking Femara.
A clinical study published in 2011 showed that 73.8 percent of women who took Letrozole (Femara) remained disease free after eight years, compared with 70.4 percent of women who took Tamoxifen. Likewise, the overall survival rates were 83.4 percent for those who took Letrozole versus 81.2 percent for those who took Tamoxifen. The study involved 8,010 women with estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer and lasted for eight years.
Common side effects of Femara include hot flashes, drowsiness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, pain in bones and joints, arthritis, hair loss, headache, insomnia, depression, vaginal bleeding, breast pain, blurry vision, elevated blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and peripheral edema (swelling of the lower legs and feet).
Another common side effect of Femara is osteoporosis, which contributes to fractures.
Rare but serious side effects of Femara can include heart attacks, strokes, liver problems and skin reactions such as blisters, ulcers or lesions. Call your doctor immediately if you experience skin problems, chest pain, feelings of numbness or weakness on one side of your body, sensations of warmth, pain or heaviness in your legs or groin, slurred speech, vision problems or liver symptoms such as jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin), pain or swelling in your abdomen, or general feelings of unwellness.
Many drugs can cause allergic reactions which, in the most serious cases, can result in death. Seek immediate medical help if you experience signs of a severe allergic reaction such as difficulty breathing or swelling in the face, throat, eyes, lips or tongue.