Tamoxifen is a prescription drug first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1977 to treat breast cancer. Tamoxifen was later also approved to prevent breast cancer. Tamoxifen is commonly given after surgery (when it is known as an adjuvant treatment) or after chemotherapy to prevent the return of breast cancer. It is also prescribed to those who are at high risk for breast cancer in order to prevent cancer from developing. It can be taken before, during, or after menopause.
About two-thirds of breast cancers are estrogen receptor-positive, meaning that they require estrogen in order to grow. Tamoxifen is a member of a class of drugs called selective estrogen receptor modulators, or SERM, that provide hormone therapy for receptor-positive breast cancer. Tamoxifen is believed to work by reducing the effect of estrogen in estrogen receptor positive breast cancers.
How do I take it?
Tamoxifen is taken orally once a day, sometimes for five years or longer. It is best to take it at the same time each day. Tamoxifen is available as a pill or as a liquid.
It is important to use effective birth control while taking tamoxifen.
Always follow your doctor’s instructions exactly when taking tamoxifen.
Common side effects of tamoxifen include hot flashes, mood disturbances, vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding, nausea, and swelling.
Rarely, tamoxifen can cause very serious side effects including blood clots, stroke and endometrial cancer (uterine) cancer. While you are taking tamoxifen, notify your doctor immediately if you experience irregular vaginal bleeding, changes in your menstrual cycle, unusual vaginal discharge, or sensations of pain or pressure in your pelvic region, pain or swelling in your legs, shortness of breath, coughing up blood, or sudden dizziness or confusion, difficulty walking or speaking, difficulty seeing in one or both eyes, or sudden tingling, weakness or numbness in your face, arm or leg, especially if the latter only occurs on one side of your body. Note that the risk of developing endometrial cancer increases when women take it for more than five years.
Tamoxifen can also increase the chances that you will develop cataracts in your eyes.
Tamoxifen can have two beneficial side effects. It can improve bone density, which reduces the risk of osteoporosis. It can also lower your blood cholesterol, decreasing your chances of developing heart disease.
For more information about this treatment, visit:
Tamoxifen (Brand Names: Nolvadex, Soltamox) — BreastCancer.org