I bet you thought that one packet of Tamoxifen was much the same as the next. So did I, and it seems a reasonable assumption.
However, I was at a pamper day laid on by the hospital for breast cancer patients when I overheard two women talking about the side effects of Tamoxifen.
The basic idea is that different brands of Tamoxifen might suit different people. New one on me I must say.
This means that if you are taking Tamoxifen and are suffering from what I will call the more immediate side effects such as nausea and lady parts that feel like a couple of bits of sandpaper scraping together in your thong, that you might be better off on another brand.
If you’re getting on fine with the Tamoxifen you’re taking right now, then you may find this information useful in case your chemist decides to change supplier.
When I first heard this I thought it sounded like a pile of old hooey, but I get on fine with my Tamoxifen and so when the box changed colour I was mildly concerned, but expected the pharmacist to poo poo my worries. However, she didn’t, and not only did she agree that women can react differently to the various brands, it seems to be well known amongst pharmacists. Why do you think the doctors don’t say anything about it when patients are struggling with the side effects?
My local pharmacist (in the Hoo St Werburgh Chemist on Main Road in case you’re close by) was very helpful and went on to explain that the supply companies will try for the most cost effective drug, or the ones which are simply in stock. If you need a particular brand, or want to try a new brand, then just ask and it can be sorted on a special order. If they won’t do it then change pharmacists.
I have taken two brands of Tamoxifen and haven’t suffered nausea with either and they are made by Wockhardt UK Limited and MA Holder APS Limited.
Oh and for those of you fed up with a sandpaper fanny, this lovely pharmacist also recommended a product called SYLK. You can buy it at boots and Superdrug for about £10 (bit cheaper on Amazon) and even get it on prescription from your GP if you ask real nice, and it’s all natural ingredients extracted from Kiwi fruits. Give it a go.
One of the side effects of taking Tamoxifen is, apparently, an increased risk of developing Uterine Cancer. DOH! Please note that I am, along with millions of other women, being prescribed Tamoxifen as a preventative measure against a further outbreak of breast cancer due to stroppy and over–sensitive oestrogen receptors. Mmmm.
Now as it happens, I have a scientific background, and so I do understand about the balance of probabilities and all that stuff. However, that is on an intellectual level, and it feels very different when it’s your body.
I was given a treatment plan almost as soon as I was diagnosed, so why did I decide on the very day I was due to swallow my first tamoxifen pill that I needed to dig a bit deeper into the side effects? I can’t say it’s because I wasn’t told about them sooner. Hospitals today are peeing their scrubs with the fear that you’re going to sue them, and so they tell you about potential side effects every 15 minutes or so. And then they get you to sign lots of bits of paper to confirm that, a) they have told you the side effects, and b) you have previously signed other bits of paper to confirm you have been told about the side effects. I was told alright. I just decided not to listen.
When I first discovered that I probably wasn’t going to die from breast cancer in the next five years, all due to my gold star treatment (as the hospital described it), I was so thrilled that I accepted everything that came my way in the form of surgery, therapy and drugs. If you have been in a similar situation, then you possibly understand how it felt, if not, then this is the best way that I can describe it…Have you ever been really hungry? I don’t mean that you missed your afternoon biscuit, but so hungry that you eat the first thing you can get your chops around. A tin of cold soup. Scrambled egg on porridge. Whatever. The point is that your basic instinct for survival takes over, and you eat what you need to keep going. You don’t think about calories, taste or additives. You’re too hungry to make an informed decision. Well, that’s how I felt when I was given the survival rates if I took Tamoxifen. Just bring it on…Get the pill popper reader, I’m in to land.
So here I am one day after my radiotherapy has finished and what is left of my left boob resembles a poached, red policeman’s helmet (the old-fashioned sort) with my cashed prescription of Tamoxifen in front of me on the kitchen table. As I understand it, to get 100% effectiveness (at blocking the effects of oestrogen, not growing uterine cancer) then I have to take the Tamoxifen bombette today.
What to do?
Well, I’ll tell you now that I did decide to take the Tamoxifen, but I’m not sure I can give a full answer as to why. I just went with my gut. It felt like the right thing to do and it was less scary than not taking it. It seemed tried and tested, there were figures that backed up results and it made sense on a very basic level. My cancer was linked to oestrogen and Tamoxifen blocks oestrogen. The threat of cancer of the womb was a way off, and as my doctor put it (but I’m sure would never ever admit they said this) ‘we’ll keep an eye on it and we can always whip your womb out’ – how reassuring, but it did the job.
I wish I could give you a yes or no answer about what you should do but no-one can do that. Best thing is to listen to listen to your doctor, speak to some other people who have taken it (not your friends and family because they have a bias obviousy) and go with your gut.