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Tamoxifen is a medicine used to treat breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body in men and women. Tamoxifen is used to lower the chance of getting breast cancer in women with a higher than normal chance of getting breast cancer. Tamoxifen is also used to lower the chance of getting invasive (spreading) cancer in women who had surgery and radiation for ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) (cancer of the milk ducts). In addition, tamoxifen is also used to treat breast cancer in women after they have finished surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
How does this medication work?
Tamoxifen works by blocking the effects of estrogen (a female hormone).
What are the beneficial effects of this medication and when should I begin to have results?
What: By blocking the effects of estrogen, tamoxifen may block the growth of breast cancers that need estrogen to grow.
When: Everyone responds differently to treatment, so try to be patient and follow your healthcare provider’s directions. It is important that you take tamoxifen exactly as your healthcare provider has prescribed.
How do I know it is working?
Your healthcare provider may order tests regularly to check how well this medication is working.
The following is not a full list of side effects. Side effects cannot be anticipated. If any develop or change in intensity, tell your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Only your healthcare provider can determine if it is safe for you to continue taking this medication.
In women with DCIS and women at high risk for breast cancer, tamoxifen can increase your risk of developing a life-threatening stroke or uterine cancer. Your healthcare provider will discuss the potential benefits and risks before you start treatment with tamoxifen.
More common side effects may include: hot flashes, vaginal discharge.
Less common side effects may include:
Changes in the lining or body of your uterus with symptoms such as vaginal bleeding, bloody discharge, changes in your monthly bleeding, pain or pressure in your pelvis.
Blood clots in your veins or lungs with symptoms such as sudden chest pain; shortness of breath; coughing up blood; or pain, tenderness, or swelling in one or both of your legs.
Increased risk of developing a stroke with symptoms such as sudden weakness, tingling, or numbness in your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of your body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; or sudden severe headache with no known cause.
Cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye) or increased chance of needing cataract surgery with symptoms such as blurred vision.
Liver problems with symptoms such as loss of appetite or yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes.
Harm to your unborn baby if taken during pregnancy. Tell your healthcare provider immediately if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding.
Do not take tamoxifen if you are allergic to it or any of its ingredients.
Do not take tamoxifen if you have DCIS and are taking blood thinners (such as warfarin) or have a history of blood clots.
Tell your healthcare provider about all prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal medications you are taking before beginning treatment with tamoxifen. Also, talk to your healthcare provider about your complete medical history, especially if you have heart or liver problems, cataracts, have or have had a blood clot, or if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding.
The information below is based on the dosage guidelines your healthcare provider uses. Depending on your condition and medical history, your healthcare provider may prescribe a different regimen. Do not change the dosage or stop taking your medication without your healthcare provider's approval.
Adults: The recommended dose is 20-40 milligrams (mg) per day.
Women with DCIS and Reduction in Breast Cancer Incidence in High Risk Women
Adults: The recommended dose is 20 mg once a day for 5 years.
Take tamoxifen exactly as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Do not change you dose or stop taking tamoxifen without first to your healthcare provider.
Swallow tamoxifen tablets whole with water or another non-alcoholic liquid. You may take tamoxifen with or without food at around the same time each day.
It is important to have regular gynecology check-ups, breast exams, and mammograms during your treatment with tamoxifen.
Do not become pregnant during your treatment with tamoxifen or for 2 months after your last dose of tamoxifen. Use non-hormonal birth control (such as condoms, diaphragms with spermicide, or intrauterine devices).
Do not breastfeed while you are taking tamoxifen.
If tamoxifen is taken with certain other drugs, the effects of either could be increased, decreased, or altered.
Tamoxifen may harm your unborn baby if taken during pregnancy. Do not take tamoxifen during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Tell your healthcare provider immediately if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breastfeeding.
If you miss a dose of tamoxifen, take it as soon as you remember. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, skip the one you missed and return to your regular dosing schedule. Do not take two doses at once.
Store at room temperature.
In the event of a medical emergency call your doctor or 9-1-1 immediately. In the event of overdose, call your doctor or poison control for further instructions.
National Poison Control#: Call 1-800-222-1222
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