Tamoxifen (Generic Name)

Other names: Nolvadex

About this drug

Tamoxifen is a drug that affects the action of estrogen in your body. Tamoxifen is used to treat certain cancers and sometimes to protect against certain cancers. It is given by mouth.

Possible side effects

  • Blood clots. There is an increased risk of blood clots in leg veins and in the lungs. Symptoms of blood clots in a leg vein may include pain, redness, warmth, and/or swelling in the thigh, calf, or ankle area. Symptoms of blood clots in the lungs may include chest pain, sharp pain when taking a breath, difficulty breathing, increased cough, coughing up blood or bloody spit, and/or increased weakness.
  • Symptoms of menopause. Flushing (“hot flashes”), sweating, vaginal discharge, dryness and irritation around the vagina, and/or mood swings may occur.
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding. There is an increased risk of uterine cancer. It is important to have regular pelvic exams to detect any irregularities as early as possible.
  • Stroke (rare).Women who have had a heart attack or are at risk for a heart attack may have an increased risk of dying from a stroke. Symptoms of a stroke may include:
    • Sudden numbness or weakness 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, or loss of balance or coordination
    • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
  • Changes in vision. There is an increased risk of getting cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye) or need for cataract surgery.
  • Leg cramps and joint pains
  • Swelling (fluid retention) in the legs, ankles, and/or feet
  • Flu syndrome
  • Mild nausea
  • This drug may have harmful effects on an unborn child. Do not become pregnant while taking tamoxifen or for 2 months after you stop. Tamoxifen can stop hormonal birth control methods from working. Hormonal methods include birth control pills, patches, injections, rings, and implants and should not be used while taking tamoxifen. Use barrier methods of birth control such as condoms, diaphragms with spermicide, or plain IUDs. If you get pregnant, stop taking tamoxifen right away and call your doctor.
  • Do not breastfeed. It is not known if this drug passes into breast milk. For this reason, women are advised to discuss with their doctor the risks and benefits of breastfeeding during treatment with this drug because this drug may enter the breast milk and seriously harm a breastfeeding infant.

Treating side effects

  • Regular gynecologic checkups that include a clinical breast exam and mammogram are important. Your doctor will tell you how often to have them.
  • Keep a record of your menstrual bleeding. Report irregular vaginal bleeding or discharge.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse to suggest ways to lessen the effects of hot flashes, sweating, and other menopausal symptoms.
  • Vaginal lubricants that are water-based can be used to lessen vaginal dryness, itching, and pain during sexual relations.

Food and drug interactions

There are no known interactions of tamoxifen with any food. It may be taken with or without food. Try to take it the same time each day.

 

This drug may interact with other medications. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medications and dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbs, and others) that you are currently taking. The safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements and alternative diets are often unknown. Using these might unexpectedly affect your cancer or interfere with your treatment. Until more is known, you should not use dietary supplements or alternative diets without your cancer doctor’s advice.

When to call the doctor

Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if you have:

  • Signs or symptoms of a stroke which may include:
    • Sudden numbness or weakness 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, or loss of balance or coordination
    • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
  • Pain in your chest
  • Trouble breathing
  • Coughing or spitting up bloody mucus
  • Pain, redness, warmth, and/or swelling in the thigh, calf, or ankle area

Call your doctor or nurse as soon as possible if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Changes in your vision
  • Irregular vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • Sweating and/or hot flashes that interfere with normal activities
  • Mood swings
  • Weakness 

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