Concerned about the side effects of anastrozole

Posted by tinalove @tinalove, Jan 31, 2016

I completed all treatments for breast cancer but now I am supposed to take hormone blocker, named anastrozole. im concerned about the side effects. Has anyone here taken it and did anyone have hair loss?

@elizm

Hi, Tina. I was diagnosed last year with Stage1A, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, ER+ and HER2+++. Following surgery and three months of Taxol and Herceptin infusions, I was a wreck. Being age 70 probably didn't help. I then chose to discontinue the 9 additional months of Herceptin, and not have radiation. The last recommended treatment was Arimidex (anastrozole). I assessed all the damage from the chemo and targeted immune therapy and decided that i would take half a dose each day and see what the side effects might be. (If, for example, my next bone density test — in about a year — shows significant loss, then I will re-evaluate taking Arimidex for an additional five years or so. If I have a recurrence of breast cancer, then I likely will opt for mastectomy and a full dose of Arimidex, etc.) It's been difficult to tell whether it has made my neuropathy and chemo brain worse or whether they would be this way in any event, but I definitely am experiencing increased arthralgia, and bouts of toe cramps and depression (which is unlike me). As my hair still is growing out following the chemo, it's hard to tell if the Arimidex is messing with that or not. I seem to react negatively to even small doses of medications, so each suggested med. can be a problem.

My oncologist indicated that, if I had trouble with Arimidex, there were others which I could try. If you go to breastcancer.org, you'll find a Hormonal Therapy Side Effects Comparison Chart for seven different aromatase inhibitors (displayed side-by-side). As you can see, none are without potential side effects; not all patients experience the noted side effects; and other side effects can't be ruled out. (You'll note that hair-thinning is not specifically associated with Arimidex.) The trade-off for me is whether the side effects from any AI are preferable to the risks of awakening one day with metastatic cancer.

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Dear Molly. BC at our age is a bear. I haven't been experiencing night sweats or power surges, but I came across something which may be of interest to you. In my case, the chemo-induced neuropathy in my hands, feet and legs has been a nightmare, keeping me up most nights and afternoons with sensory burning. I went to an acupuncturist who also is a doctor of Chinese medicine. My legs and hands were too sensitive for the acupuncture, but he suggested a traditional herbal medication which, for hundreds of years, has been given to women with menopausal symptoms. It is called Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan… little, black herbal pills… I take up to 20/day and they turn my burning appendages icy cold, allowing me to sleep. I would never buy it online as there is no way to know where/how it was sourced, but I trust the doctors of Chinese medicine around here. It also contains no estrogen (an important consideration for those of us on an aromatase inhibitor). In any event, I wonder if it might provide you with some relief from the summer temperatures (you certainly wouldn't need to take as many as I do). In the meantime, I'm rooting for you… we've likely been through rougher times… we'll get through this one!

Liked by Molly MIller

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Thank you ~ We do have a number of accupuncturists in the area. My oncologist seems to avoid recommended alternative medicine. (She's not the one who prescribes the percodan either.) I am not sure she is as understanding as I would like her to be about my pain and other symptoms. I have a mammogram next week so right now I am focused on that…Mental suffering which can be worse than physical. Thanks for your input. 'So glad that you've found relief!

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@elizm

Hi, Tina. I was diagnosed last year with Stage1A, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, ER+ and HER2+++. Following surgery and three months of Taxol and Herceptin infusions, I was a wreck. Being age 70 probably didn't help. I then chose to discontinue the 9 additional months of Herceptin, and not have radiation. The last recommended treatment was Arimidex (anastrozole). I assessed all the damage from the chemo and targeted immune therapy and decided that i would take half a dose each day and see what the side effects might be. (If, for example, my next bone density test — in about a year — shows significant loss, then I will re-evaluate taking Arimidex for an additional five years or so. If I have a recurrence of breast cancer, then I likely will opt for mastectomy and a full dose of Arimidex, etc.) It's been difficult to tell whether it has made my neuropathy and chemo brain worse or whether they would be this way in any event, but I definitely am experiencing increased arthralgia, and bouts of toe cramps and depression (which is unlike me). As my hair still is growing out following the chemo, it's hard to tell if the Arimidex is messing with that or not. I seem to react negatively to even small doses of medications, so each suggested med. can be a problem.

My oncologist indicated that, if I had trouble with Arimidex, there were others which I could try. If you go to breastcancer.org, you'll find a Hormonal Therapy Side Effects Comparison Chart for seven different aromatase inhibitors (displayed side-by-side). As you can see, none are without potential side effects; not all patients experience the noted side effects; and other side effects can't be ruled out. (You'll note that hair-thinning is not specifically associated with Arimidex.) The trade-off for me is whether the side effects from any AI are preferable to the risks of awakening one day with metastatic cancer.

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Thanks for the information , I have had Neuropathy for over 5 yrs , I had just finally got my symptoms under control and had a Routine that made it easy to live with PN ,without taking Pain Meds like Tramadol and Elival at night because all the other Meds. Didn't help ! !!! Then I found the BC lump ! This has been my concern ,chemo bringing the chronic pain and burning all back .My Indocrinologist actually got my burning and pain levels under control by Vitamins B-12 Folbee, E and D 700 and 600 mg once a day ,plus I changed my eating ,mostly veggies and fruit,,,any kind of prepackaged w/ filler foods always made mine worse !! Now with Chemo my Oncologist tells me to stop them because of possible reactions with Treatment !!! It's really strange the Different ways Oncologist treat ,I understand everyone with each case ,but it seems getting all the immune support in your body the better !!! I guess I just think with Logic!!!

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@colleenyoung

Welcome to Connect, @eljayem.
According to this description of anastorzole at Cancer Research UK “tiredness or fatigue happens in up to 2 out of 10 women (20%)”. Read more at http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancers-in-general/treatment/cancer-drugs/anastrozole

Cancer fatigue can be caused by many contributing factors. While you may not of experienced fatigue from surgery, chemo and radiation, I wonder if this is a late side effect from all the treatments compounded by anastrozole. Heck, you’ve just been through the wringer! Post active treatment is a challenging adjustment. Have you considered that post-treatment might be a contributor?

I’m interested in hearing what @floramart @grandma41 @cautiousoptimism @susanao1 @teege1 @leemiller and others who have been there have to say from their experience.

eljayem – have you tried taking the medication at night time?

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For what it's worth, everyone in my cancer support group (there are about 10 of us who continue to meet monthly for lunch) are experiencing fatigue. We're all on either Arimidex or Letrozole, we all were diagnosed last summer, have had varying diagnoses and treatments, are different ages, some work and others don't, we're all frustrated that we're not as quick mentally as we were a year ago… and by ap. 4 p.m., we're exhausted. Those of us who must prepare dinner for others find that the evening is a total loss as our brains simply stop working by then. Considering what we've been through (and some are still receiving treatments), it doesn't surprise us. Our oncologists tell us this reaction is to be expected… regrettably.

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@leemiller

I’m not aware of problematic side effects after a little over a year on anastrozole, except my last DEXA showed a bit more loss of bone mass in my spine. My hair is back, post chemo, sleeping okay, joint pain is from arthritic knees, pain linked to hip weakness. The anastrozole is giving me so little trouble my oncologist is reluctant to try anything else, even with the osteoporosis.

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Glad to hear you are coping well with Arimidex ~ Am I correct in thinking that Arimidex and anastrozole are the same thing? If they aren't…Well, I better re-educate myself.

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@leemiller

I’m not aware of problematic side effects after a little over a year on anastrozole, except my last DEXA showed a bit more loss of bone mass in my spine. My hair is back, post chemo, sleeping okay, joint pain is from arthritic knees, pain linked to hip weakness. The anastrozole is giving me so little trouble my oncologist is reluctant to try anything else, even with the osteoporosis.

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Molly, You are correct. Anastrozole is the generic of Arimidex.

Liked by Molly MIller

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@leemiller

I’m not aware of problematic side effects after a little over a year on anastrozole, except my last DEXA showed a bit more loss of bone mass in my spine. My hair is back, post chemo, sleeping okay, joint pain is from arthritic knees, pain linked to hip weakness. The anastrozole is giving me so little trouble my oncologist is reluctant to try anything else, even with the osteoporosis.

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Oh, good! I thought the afternoon/evening fog had begun to spill over into my mornings! Thank you, my friend!

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@leemiller

I’m not aware of problematic side effects after a little over a year on anastrozole, except my last DEXA showed a bit more loss of bone mass in my spine. My hair is back, post chemo, sleeping okay, joint pain is from arthritic knees, pain linked to hip weakness. The anastrozole is giving me so little trouble my oncologist is reluctant to try anything else, even with the osteoporosis.

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My oncologist said that she prefers to use the generic form/name because it tells her what is in the drug… She knows if she sees the generic exactly what the drug contains — and research says that drugmakers are now using z and x in drug names because they are appealing to users. Go figure!

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I have been on Anastrozole for 3 months since diagnosis of breast cancer in March 2018. I will be having surgery later this year and goal of hormone treatment is to prevent need for chemotherapy after surgery. I have read some of the replies and did not see anyone mention of depression. I am having problems with depression since started taking medication. I was so bad at last oncology appointment they referred to psychiatry. At his point treating the depression symptoms rather than change cancer treatment.

My opinion is the depression is related to Anastrozole and not the fact I have newly diagnosed cancer. Prior to starting meds, I was dealing with diagnoses fine, after starting meds I have crying spells often. I have history of depression, so maybe I was more susceptible to changes in hormones. I am glad I talked to doctor about by symptoms and getting help.

I had some hair thinning, my solution is to cut hair shorter. No problems with hot flashes. Had some neck stiffness and minor headaches, those symptoms are tolerable compared to depression. .

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@roch

I have been on Anastrozole for 3 months since diagnosis of breast cancer in March 2018. I will be having surgery later this year and goal of hormone treatment is to prevent need for chemotherapy after surgery. I have read some of the replies and did not see anyone mention of depression. I am having problems with depression since started taking medication. I was so bad at last oncology appointment they referred to psychiatry. At his point treating the depression symptoms rather than change cancer treatment.

My opinion is the depression is related to Anastrozole and not the fact I have newly diagnosed cancer. Prior to starting meds, I was dealing with diagnoses fine, after starting meds I have crying spells often. I have history of depression, so maybe I was more susceptible to changes in hormones. I am glad I talked to doctor about by symptoms and getting help.

I had some hair thinning, my solution is to cut hair shorter. No problems with hot flashes. Had some neck stiffness and minor headaches, those symptoms are tolerable compared to depression. .

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Hello "roch" – don't know if this will help but……..the first symptom I noticed when starting Arimidex and Letrozole (tried both) was depression. It was almost immediate and severe. I generally am not depressed so I'm certain it was the meds. It's also common, of course, to have anxiety and depression with a cancer diagnosis and treatment, so perhaps a double whammy. I do feel the meds cause depression so if it's any support – know that the meds are saving you from future chemo possibly and that would be a very good thing and soldier through the best you can. Altering hormones causes it's own set of problems.

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@roch

I have been on Anastrozole for 3 months since diagnosis of breast cancer in March 2018. I will be having surgery later this year and goal of hormone treatment is to prevent need for chemotherapy after surgery. I have read some of the replies and did not see anyone mention of depression. I am having problems with depression since started taking medication. I was so bad at last oncology appointment they referred to psychiatry. At his point treating the depression symptoms rather than change cancer treatment.

My opinion is the depression is related to Anastrozole and not the fact I have newly diagnosed cancer. Prior to starting meds, I was dealing with diagnoses fine, after starting meds I have crying spells often. I have history of depression, so maybe I was more susceptible to changes in hormones. I am glad I talked to doctor about by symptoms and getting help.

I had some hair thinning, my solution is to cut hair shorter. No problems with hot flashes. Had some neck stiffness and minor headaches, those symptoms are tolerable compared to depression. .

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Roch: I, too, have experienced bouts of depression (unusual for me) this spring since going on anastrozole in January, even though I only take a half dose. I associated it with not being able to exercise every day (the chemo-induced neuropathy seemed to increase following the end of chemo). My reaction was to exercise earlier in the day (treadmill at the gym) and spend more time with outside activities (Stephen Ministry and working with foster care students). My personal analysis of being a cancer survivor is that it's always going to be something… some things I can control (like asking for a different aromatase inhibitor if the depression bouts continue, exercising earlier in the day, taking Chinese herbs, etc.) and some things are out of my control (like the nerve damage, insomnia, and extreme arthralgia). For me, trying anything and everything beats having to go through chemo, again. Don't hesitate to ask your oncologist to switch your AI to letrozole or exemestane to see if you can avoid experiencing the bouts of depression. Each of us reacts differently to a particular hormone therapy, depending on our body chemistry. Just be aware that all of these meds can cause various side-effects. Wishing you a better outcome in future!

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@roch

I have been on Anastrozole for 3 months since diagnosis of breast cancer in March 2018. I will be having surgery later this year and goal of hormone treatment is to prevent need for chemotherapy after surgery. I have read some of the replies and did not see anyone mention of depression. I am having problems with depression since started taking medication. I was so bad at last oncology appointment they referred to psychiatry. At his point treating the depression symptoms rather than change cancer treatment.

My opinion is the depression is related to Anastrozole and not the fact I have newly diagnosed cancer. Prior to starting meds, I was dealing with diagnoses fine, after starting meds I have crying spells often. I have history of depression, so maybe I was more susceptible to changes in hormones. I am glad I talked to doctor about by symptoms and getting help.

I had some hair thinning, my solution is to cut hair shorter. No problems with hot flashes. Had some neck stiffness and minor headaches, those symptoms are tolerable compared to depression. .

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Hello, Roch ~ Rest assured that you are not alone in having depression as an Arimidex side effect. I don't quite know what else to say, as mine comes in waves. Some days I truly feel upbeat and it lasts for a day or two and then i wake up and don't want to get out of bed. Pain also varies ~ Hot flashes pretty constant but I can deal with them . 18 months since diagnosis, 36 radiation treatment, turned down chemo and am now 13 months on Arimidex. At age 69, I did not want to even TRY chemo and my doctor conceurred, I was diagnosed with Stage 2A Est and Pro positive, HerpII negative . One node effected, 16 others removed, all clear. As you coan tell from this typing I am experiencing visual problems. Prayers, etc. are in heavy use. WIshing you good days ahead.

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@roch

I have been on Anastrozole for 3 months since diagnosis of breast cancer in March 2018. I will be having surgery later this year and goal of hormone treatment is to prevent need for chemotherapy after surgery. I have read some of the replies and did not see anyone mention of depression. I am having problems with depression since started taking medication. I was so bad at last oncology appointment they referred to psychiatry. At his point treating the depression symptoms rather than change cancer treatment.

My opinion is the depression is related to Anastrozole and not the fact I have newly diagnosed cancer. Prior to starting meds, I was dealing with diagnoses fine, after starting meds I have crying spells often. I have history of depression, so maybe I was more susceptible to changes in hormones. I am glad I talked to doctor about by symptoms and getting help.

I had some hair thinning, my solution is to cut hair shorter. No problems with hot flashes. Had some neck stiffness and minor headaches, those symptoms are tolerable compared to depression. .

Jump to this post

Welcome to Connect, @roch.
A cancer diagnosis is life-changing, and I'm so glad you recognized your symptoms of depression and sought help.
My research about anastrozole also led to this article which echos your insights:
Electroacupuncture Helps Ease Fatigue, Anxiety, and Depression in Women Taking Aromatase Inhibitors: http://www.breastcancer.org/research-news/electracupuncture-helps-ai-side-effects

@roch, may I ask how you are treating and managing the depression?

Liked by Molly MIller

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@roch

I have been on Anastrozole for 3 months since diagnosis of breast cancer in March 2018. I will be having surgery later this year and goal of hormone treatment is to prevent need for chemotherapy after surgery. I have read some of the replies and did not see anyone mention of depression. I am having problems with depression since started taking medication. I was so bad at last oncology appointment they referred to psychiatry. At his point treating the depression symptoms rather than change cancer treatment.

My opinion is the depression is related to Anastrozole and not the fact I have newly diagnosed cancer. Prior to starting meds, I was dealing with diagnoses fine, after starting meds I have crying spells often. I have history of depression, so maybe I was more susceptible to changes in hormones. I am glad I talked to doctor about by symptoms and getting help.

I had some hair thinning, my solution is to cut hair shorter. No problems with hot flashes. Had some neck stiffness and minor headaches, those symptoms are tolerable compared to depression. .

Jump to this post

Thank you for the information about electroacupuncture, will see if anyone in my area provides this service.

I currently see psychologist and take Sertraline HCL (Zoloft) and Bupropion HCL XL (Wellbutrin XL).

LM

Liked by Molly MIller

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Hi, LM ~ I have found an electroaccupuncturist in my area who is an MD with specializing in Eastern medicine. She accepts Medicare! However, I have had a masseuse and accupuncturist who is not an MD, but she has been wonderful over the years. 'Have not been there in a while though. I know she doesn't (isn't allowed, I guess) accept Medicare. I wonder if Kanaaz knows if the electroaccupuncture might be more effective than regular; Perhaps a study or personal story? I have a fair degree of pain in most parts of my body, generally worst in the morning ~ And depression? I too am on Wellbutrin and I take Lexapro. I have taken these 2 drugs for many years ~ Long before my diagnosis in late 2016! I would say I have moderate anxiety and do take Ativan at bedtime with Neurontin and I do sleep well. How could I NOT with so many drugs coursing through my body? So, a more natural approach, if it is effective would be great! Sending peaceful and soothing thoughts ~ Molly

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