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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Breast Cancer and Hormone Therapy

Can Other Drugs Prevent Breast Cancer?

Another drug, raloxifene (Evista), which prevents the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis, is similar to tamoxifen. Studies have found that it prevents breast cancer in women who are at high risk, but with fewer side effects. The FDA has approved it for breast cancer prevention.

Other Hormone Therapies

Aromatase inhibitors are another type of hormone therapy drug. They keep the body from breaking down testosterone into estrogen. They include anastrozole (Arimidex) and letrozole (Femara).

Aromatase inhibitors keep breast cancer from getting worse for longer than tamoxifen in women with advanced disease whose tumors rely on estrogen to grow. For women who have gone through menopause, the drugs can fight cancer even after it has spread to other parts of the body. They are pills that you take once a day.

Side effects of aromatase inhibitors include:

Another drug, exemestane (Aromasin), treats postmenopausal women with breast cancer that has spread outside of the breast. It’s best for people who’ve tried tamoxifen but it didn’t help. It's a pill you take once a day after meals.

Side effects of exemestane include:

Palbociclib (Ibrance) is not hormone therapy by itself. It's a drug that stops other molecules known to help cancer cells grow. The drug, which doctors give along with letrozole, is for postmenopausal women with advanced cancer who haven’t yet tried hormone therapy.

Side effects of palbociclib include:

  • Low levels of red and white blood cells
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Mouth sores
  • Upper respiratory infections

Fulvestrant (Faslodex) is an injection that keeps estrogen from attaching to cancer cells. The drug is for postmenopausal women who have HER2 proteins on their cancer cells and have already tried anti-estrogen therapy. Common side effects include:

  • Pain where you get the injection
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Hot flashes
  • Cough
  • Muscle, joint, and bone pain
  • Constipation
  • Shortness of breath

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