Talking Medicine: Tamoxifen is crucial in breast cancer treatment
Posted Monday, October 14 2013 at 00:00
October is breast cancer month. So today, let us talk about a drug that is at the heart of every patient suffering the disease—tamoxifen.
It is a drug available in 10miligramme tablets or syrups that contain 10miligrammes for every five millilitres of the solution. In adults, it is often prescribed as 20miligramme tablets, to be taken daily, for five years for patients diagnosed with early stage breast cancer.
At times, it is called an anti-oestrogen, because it blocks the receptors to which the oestrogen, a hormone attaches in the body. Tamoxifen is used to prevent and treat breast cancers that test positive for estrogen receptors (ER+).
It works by blocking the effects oestrogen has on cancer cells, and helps to lower the risk of reocurrence of the cancer.
In women who have already had cancer on one breast, tamoxifen lowers the risk of the cancer spreading to the uninfected breast.
How you should know
Tamoxifen should be taken for a period of five years for any patient for whom it is recommended.
This is usually done after the patient has undergone surgery or radiation. Patients taking tamoxifen might experience hot flashes, light headedness, headaches, vaginal discharges and bleeding, suppression of menstruation for pre-menopausal women, and decreased platelet counts (platelets are responsible for blood clotting). Some patients may experience gastrointestinal disturbances such as nausea, vomiting, and stomach upsets. This drug is not recommended for pregnant or breast-feeding mothers.
Tamoxifen costs Shs12,800 for a monthly dose at various pharmacies in Kampala.
The writer is a pharmacist