Doctors' Answers to "Frequently Asked Questions" - Tamoxifen

These comments are made for the purpose of discussion and should NOT be used as recommendations for or against therapies or other treatments. An individual patient is always advised to consult their own physician.

Tamoxifen [posted 1/7/99]
Question:My mother has been on Tamoxifen (Nolvadex) for 10 years, since her last re-occurrence of breast cancer. I have been unable to find any long term studies (over 5 years) on this drug. Can you tell me anything regarding the long term effects of Nolvadex?

Answer: There are several and appear to have a decrease in bone fractures, better cardiovascular risk and generally low overall severe risks. Pretty similar to Reloxifene we think.

Length of Time to Stay on Tamoxifen [posted 7/31/98]
Question: how long will i have to take the tamoxifen to be sure the cancer does not return

Answer: It is never a "sure " thing - it only improves the odds. Usual duration is 3 or 5 years depending on the physician, your receptor status and the aggressiveness of the tumor.

Length of Time on Tamoxifen [posted 7/31/98]
Question: I have been on tamoxifen since August 1994. Generally how long do doctors keep you on this? My doctor has said approximately 5 years although each check-up shows me clear. Tumor highly estrogen positive, ovary removed in December 1996 to stop production of estrogen, but the doctor still insists on the full 5 years.

Answer: Usually 3-5 years depending on the physician. Yours obviously leans toward 5.

Question: I was wondering if you could aid me in suggestions on how to combat the side effects of hot-flashes, waking and night sweats. My sister is on tamoxifen for treatment of breast cancer and has been experiencing these side effects. She has been taking Vitamin E, Primrose oil and ginseng. Can you suggest something to aid her in decreasing the effects?

Answer: Clonidine can be very effective. It is a central alpha-blocker initially used for blood pressure, but found to be very effective in many drug withdrawal problems (heroin, tobacco, estrogen, etc.). It will cause a dry mouth and mild constipation and occasional somnolence, which usually is the limiting factor. However, it usually reduces or eliminates these problems. It is available as a patch or pill. Start with the smallest dose available and work up as the symptoms and side effects dictate.

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Last modified January 7, 1999