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.