Tamoxifen (Generic Name)

Other Names: Nolvadex®

About This Drug

Tamoxifen is used to treat cancer. This drug is given by mouth (orally). 

Possible Side Effects (More Common)

  • Hot flashes or sudden skin flushing may happen. You may also feel warm or red.
  • Vaginal discharge or irregular menstrual periods
  • Swelling of your legs, ankles and/or feet
  • Nausea and throwing up (vomiting)

Possible Side Effects (Less Common)

  • Generalized weakness and discomfort (aches or pains)
  • Decreased appetite (decreased hunger)
  • Blood clots.  A blood clot in your leg may cause your leg to swell, appear red and warm, and/or cause pain. A blood clot in your lungs may cause trouble breathing, pain when breathing, and/or chest pain.
  • Changes in your liver function.  Your doctor will check your liver function as needed. 
  • This drug may raise your risk of getting a second cancer. Tell your doctor right away about any changes in vaginal bleeding.

Treating Side Effects

  • Ask your doctor about medicine to lessen muscle aches and pains.
  • Wearing clothes that are loose and layered can help decrease hot flashes
  • Drink 6-8 cups of fluids each day unless your doctor has told you to limit your fluid intake due to some other health problem. A cup is 8 ounces of fluid. If you throw up or have loose bowel movements you should drink more fluids so that you do not become dehydrated (lack water in the body due to losing too much fluid).

Food and Drug Interactions

There are no known interactions of tamoxifen with food. This drug may interact with other medicines. Tell your doctor and pharmacist about all the medicines and dietary supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbs and others) that you are taking at this time. The safety and use of dietary supplements and alternative diets are often not known. Using these might 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 help.

Important Information

  • Swallow this medicine whole.  Do not chew, break or crush it.
  • You can take the medicine with or without food.  If you have nausea, take it with food.
  • Missed dose: If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember. Do not take it if it is close (within 12 hours) of your next dose. Just take the next dose at your normal time. Do not take more than 1 dose at a time.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor or nurse right away if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Fever of 100.5 F (38 C) or higher
  • Rash or itching
  • Blurred vision or other changes in eyesight
  • Nausea that stops you from eating or drinking
  • Throwing up more than 3 times a day
  • Signs of liver problems: dark urine, pale bowel movements, bad stomach pain, feeling very tired and weak, unusual itching, or yellowing of the eyes or skin.

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

  • Blurred vision or other changes in eyesight
  • Nausea that is not relieved by prescribed medicines
  • Rash that is not relieved by prescribed medicines
  • Heavy menstrual period that lasts longer than normal
  • Swelling of legs, ankles, or feet
  • Weight gain of 5 pounds in one week (fluid retention)
  • Lasting loss of appetite or rapid weight loss of five pounds in a week
  • Fatigue that interferes with your daily activities
  • Extreme weakness that interferes with normal activities

Sexual Concerns and Reproduction Problems

  • Fertility: In women, menstrual bleeding may become irregular or stop while you are getting this drug. Do not assume that you cannot become pregnant if you do not have a menstrual period.
  • Women may go through signs of menopause (change of life) like vaginal dryness or itching. Vaginal lubricants can be used to lessen vaginal dryness, itching, and pain during sexual relations.
  • Pregnancy warning: This drug may have harmful effects on the unborn child, so effective methods of birth control should be used during your cancer treatment.
  • Breast feeding warning: It is not known if this drug passes into breast milk.  For this reason, women should talk to their doctor about the risks and benefits of breast feeding during treatment with this drug because this drug may enter the breast milk and badly harm a breast feeding baby.

Revised November 2014

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