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Tamoxifen for Breast Cancer Treatment and Prevention

Is tamoxifen a safe breast cancer treatment?

The overall consensus is the benefits of tamoxifen as a treatment for breast cancer far outweigh the potential risks associated with this medication.

Along with preventing breast cancer, tamoxifen is often used as a successful breast cancer treatment for both advanced and early-stage breast cancers. It's prescribed for women who have had cancer in one breast in order to reduce the risk of cancer in the second breast. In addition, scientific studies support the use of tamoxifen in treating women with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a type of breast cancer that may lead to invasive breast cancer.

What are the side effects of tamoxifen?

Some experts believe that the prevention benefits of tamoxifen should be cautiously weighed considering its cost, and its side effects, which are potentially serious.

Side effects of tamoxifen can be dangerous, even deadly, and include:

  • Blood clots
  • Strokes
  • Heart disease 
  • Uterine cancer
  • Cataracts

Milder side effects of tamoxifen may include menopause-like symptoms such as:

  • Vaginal dryness
  • Hot flushes
  • Leg cramps
  • Joint pain

In addition, tamoxifen may cause menstrual irregularities and sexual dysfunction.

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer or are at high risk for breast cancer, talk with your doctor to see if tamoxifen is right for you. Together, you can weigh the benefits and risks of this drug to make sure you get the healthiest outcome.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on September 02, 2014

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