Should I take Tamoxifen?

One of the side effects of taking Tamoxifen is, apparently, an increased risk of developing Uterine CancerDOH! 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 oversensitive 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 stuffHowever, 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 soupScrambled egg on porridgeWhateverThe point is that your basic instinct for survival takes over, and you eat what you need to keep goingYou don’t think about calories, taste or additives.  You’re too hungry to make an informed decisionWell, that’s how I felt when I was given the survival rates if I took TamoxifenJust 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.

 

6 Comments

  1. Dorothy on April 30, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    I have decided so far to NOT take Tamoxifen. One reason is that when I wanted to discuss the advantages versus the disadvantages I was hurried out of my then oncologist’s office. I constantly reassess my personal explanation for her behavior and today I assume it was because she surely was disgusted by those women who would even dare to consider not taking Tamoxifen, as though it would invite a definite return of cancer. I am confused and have yet to find an answer. In the meantime, I am progressing month-by-month in age and am thinking well, my estrogen receptors will eventually not have too much to worry about–perimenopause just may be upon me! The question has become “which way to gamble?” And, am I gambling? Nobody knows for sure. While I am often hungry and sometimes eat just about anything, I also like to think that I am mostly selective about what I decide to put into my body, but that may be an illusion as well.

    • Sian on May 2, 2010 at 9:00 am

      HI Dorothy and thanks for sharing your thoughts. One thing I noticed is how disempowering all of this can be which sometimes makes it easier for the professionals to brush our concerns aside. Why don’t you make an appointment to visit either your consultant or an advice centre associated with your medical centre. How about your GP? Best wishes, Sian

  2. colon cleansing on January 19, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Great site. A lot of useful information here. I’m sending it to some friends!

  3. Dorothy on January 20, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Dear Sian,

    As it turned out, I should not have taken Tamoxifen. Through some sort of coincidence one of my nieces took ill and it was soon discovered that she was/is a hemophila, which meant that somebody to whom she is genetically related probably was as well. Yes, I am. But, not only me, my two sisters are as well. It is beyond me why a routine blood test is not performed PRIOR to insisting that Tamoxifen be taken–at least here in the USA, or in CA, or in my case it isn’t–who would ever think that someone would be a hemophilia–very few of us are, but very few of us know it too. Had I taken Tamoxifen, my Factor II issue may have interacted with it and a blood clot may have been the end of my story. I am therefore telling all who will listen/read to please ask for the blood test before taking anything that might be a huge risk to your overall health, as ironic as it seems, for of course breast cancer is a threat to anyone’s overall health.

    I am almost a year out from my last reconstructive surgery, but I am about ready to schedule another surgery on the same breast–to remove it, so it is interesting that I receive an update from your website today, the very day of my appointment. The nasty old disease persists in hanging around, despite radiation and despite partial mastectomy and a few glasses of wine and tons of positive thinking. The only thing I guess I can say with certainty now is that Tamoxifen will probably not kill me.

    Best to you and all of your friends.

  4. Sian Murphy on January 26, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Dear Dorothy,

    I am sorry to hear about your ongoing health troubles but so grateful to you for your generosity in sharing this information.

    I intend to write an article about this and would very much like to attribute it to you. Please let me know if you’re happy with this, and if so, let me have your full name so I can get that included.

    My best wishes and thoughts to you and your family and be assured that this is not a journey you are taking alone – we’re all there with you.

    Kind regards

    Sian
    .-= Sian Murphy´s last blog ..Hello world! =-.

  5. Fedile on August 6, 2012 at 4:31 am

    Its interesting to hear this. I stopped it last month because no one told me about the side effects. They just offload you with medication without much explanation.

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