Tamoxifen Side Effects

by on March 10, 2012


Tamoxifen is used to treat a variety of conditions, but is most commonly prescribed as part of a breast cancer treatment or prevention plan for both men and women. There are a wide range of Tamoxifen side effects that must be considered. The most serious side effects of Tamoxifen include the risk of blood clots in the lungs and endometrial cancer. However, these risks are often worth the benefits of taking the medication in potentially terminal cases.

Common Tamoxifen Side Effects

Most patients experience some minor side effects when they first begin treatment with Tamoxifen. Any of the following symptoms shouldn’t present concern unless they persist for several days.

  • Hot flashes
  • Hair loss or thinning
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Minor depression
  • Headaches
  • Leg cramps
  • Joint or bone pain

If you experience any of the side effects above and the symptoms don’t improve or become worse, notify your doctor.

Serious Tamoxifen Side Effects

tamoxifen Very few people are allergic to the ingredients in Tamoxifen, but if an allergic reaction should occur, the individual should seek immediate medical attention. These symptoms include hives or a skin rash, breathing difficulty, and swelling of the face, throat, or tongue. Tamoxifen side effects include a number of other potentially life-threatening conditions. The following symptoms are rare, but require immediate emergency care.

  • Sudden weakness, particularly if it occurs on one side of the body
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech or difficult speech
  • Blurred vision or sudden changes in vision
  • Pain or swelling in the calves
  • Breathing difficulties

These symptoms are often associated with stroke or blood clots in the lungs or legs and could be fatal without prompt attention. Other serious side effects of Tamoxifen include:

  • Fever
  • Nausea with abdominal pain
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • Unusual tiredness
  • An irregular menstrual cycle
  • Loss of appetite with dark colored urine
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Pain or pressure in the pelvis

Tamoxifen in Men

While Tamoxifen is prescribed primarily to women, it is also effective in the treatment of male breast cancer. Men who take Tamoxifen may experience many of the same symptoms as women and are also at risk of blood clots or stroke. It is also common for men to see a decrease in their sex drive and, occasionally, lack of performance.

Men should use the same precautions as women in regards to their medical history and other medications before starting treatment with Tamoxifen.

Tamoxifen in Children

In the past, Tamoxifen has been used to treat premature puberty and its symptoms in both boys and girls.

While effective results were seen, later studies on laboratory mice have found that the drug may cause premature growth plate fusion so the treatment is no longer recommended for use by individuals who are still growing. The risks of abnormal bone growth and skeletal development may be greater among boys than girls.

Tamoxifen and Blood Clots

Although rare, blood clots and stroke are the most serious side effects. Patients with a history of blood clots, including deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, should discuss other treatment options with their doctor. Your physician should also be altered to other conditions that you may suffer from now or have in the past, including high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, diabetes, and liver disease. Women over the age of 35 who smoke cigarettes are at a greater risk of developing blood clots than those who don’t and may be encouraged to seek an alternative treatment.

For many patients, the risks of side effects aren’t worth the possible benefits. Individuals undergoing treatment for breast cancer, however, can see a drastic improvement in their symptoms after taking Tamoxifen. With a carefully monitored treatment plan, the side effects of Tamoxifen can be minimized for most users.