Generic name: Tamoxifen citrateBrand names: Nolvadex
Nolvadex, an anticancer drug, is given to treat breast cancer. It also has proved effective when cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Nolvadex is most effective in stopping the kind of breast cancer that thrives on estrogen.
Nolvadex is also prescribed to reduce the risk of invasive breast cancer following surgery and radiation therapy for ductal carcinoma in situ. The drug can also be used to reduce the odds of breast cancer in women at high risk of developing the disease. It does not completely eliminate your chances, but in a five-year study of over 1,500 high-risk women, it slashed the number of cases by 44 percent.
Although Nolvadex reduces the risk of breast cancer, it increases the possibility of developing endometrial (uterine) cancer. Women taking Nolvadex should have routine gynecological examinations and report any abnormal vaginal bleeding, changes in menstrual periods, change in vaginal discharge, or pelvic pain or pressure to the doctor immediately. Even after Nolvadex therapy has stopped, any abnormal vaginal bleeding should be reported at once.
Take Nolvadex exactly as prescribed. Do not stop taking Nolvadex without first consulting your doctor. It may be necessary to continue taking the drug for several years.
Side effects from Nolvadex are usually mild and rarely require the drug to be stopped. If any develop or change in intensity, inform your doctor as soon as possible. Only your doctor can determine if it is safe for you to continue taking Nolvadex.
Do not take Nolvadex if you are sensitive to it or have ever had an allergic reaction to it.
If you are taking the blood-thinning drug warfarin or have had problems with clots in your veins or your lungs, you should not take Nolvadex to reduce the risk of breast cancer, and when taking it to treat an actual case of the disease, you should use it with caution.
In addition to increasing the risk of uterine cancer, Nolvadex also raises the odds of developing endometriosis (the spread of endometrial tissue outside the uterus), uterine fibroids, uterine polyps, and ovarian cysts. Women who take Nolvadex also face a greater risk of stroke and blood clots lodging in their lungs. The risk increases further when Nolvadex is combined with toxic cancer drugs. Nolvadex can also cause liver damage, and should be used with caution if you already have liver problems.
If you experience visual problems while taking Nolvadex, notify your doctor immediately.
In a few women Nolvadex may raise the level of cholesterol and other fats in the blood. Your doctor may periodically do blood tests to check your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Nolvadex may produce an abnormally high level of calcium in the blood. Symptoms include muscle pain and weakness, loss of appetite, and, if severe, kidney failure. If you experience any of these symptoms, notify your doctor as soon as possible.
If tests show that your blood contains too few white blood cells or platelets while you are taking Nolvadex, your doctor should monitor you with special care. These problems have sometimes been found in women taking Nolvadex; whether the drug caused the blood-cell abnormalities is uncertain.
If Nolvadex is taken with certain other drugs, the effects of either could be increased, decreased, or altered. It is especially important to check with your doctor before combining Nolvadex with the following:AminoglutethimideBlood-thinning drugs such as warfarinBromocriptineCancer drugs such as cyclophosphamideLetrozolePhenobarbitalRifampin
It is important to avoid pregnancy while taking Nolvadex, because the drug could harm the unborn child. Since Nolvadex is an anti-estrogen drug, you will need to use a non-hormonal form of contraception, such as a condom and/or diaphragm, and not birth control pills. If you accidentally become pregnant while taking Nolvadex, or within 2 months after you have stopped taking it, discuss this with your doctor immediately.
Because Nolvadex might cause serious harm to a nursing infant, you should not breastfeed your baby while taking Nolvadex. If Nolvadex is essential to your health, your doctor may advise you to discontinue breastfeeding until your treatment is finished.
Breast Cancer Treatment
The daily dosage ranges from 20 to 40 milligrams. If you are taking more than 20 milligrams a day, your doctor will have you divide the total into 2 smaller doses taken in the morning and evening. Nolvadex comes in 10- and 20-milligram tablets.
Ductal Carcinoma in Situ
The recommended dose is 20 milligrams once daily for 5 years.
Breast Cancer Prevention
The recommended dose is 20 milligrams once a day for up to 5 years.
Safety and efficacy in children have not been established.
Any medication taken in excess can have serious consequences. If you suspect an overdose of Nolvadex, seek medical attention immediately.