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?

@lisalucier

Hello, @susiebeard, and welcome to Mayo Clinic Connect. Since you mentioned increasing symptoms of arthritis and bone pain in your hands and feet since initiating anastrazole treatment, I've moved your post here to this discussion, "Concerned about the side effects of anastrozole," so that you can talk with others who are in or have been in a similar therapy and may have some thoughts to share, especially about the symptoms you described.

If you click on VIEW & REPLY in your email notification, you will see the whole discussion and can join in, meet, and participate with other members talking about their or their loved ones' experiences.

Wondering what your oncologist has said about a connection between the arthritis and bone pain and the anastrazole? Has any treatment for these symptoms been prescribed?

Jump to this post

My oncologist doesn't say the symptoms are directly related to the Anastrazole, but he also doesn't discount my complaints. Treatment for me would be difficult as I have issues with my kidneys and any NSAID or steroid sends them into a downward spiral! I see the oncologist later in January and I intend to bring up this issue. It has become a matter of "quality of life" for me. At age "almost 75" I am wondering if I would be better off dcing this medication.

REPLY
@colleenyoung

Hi @tinalove, welcome to Connect.
You’ll notice that I moved your message into the Breast Cancer group.

Anastrozole belongs to a class of drugs called aromatase inhibitors. You can find out more about them and what to expect here http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/hormone-therapy-for-breast-cancer/basics/what-you-can-expect/prc-20015050 On the list of side effects of anastozole, hair loss is listed as an uncommon side effect.

It would be nice to get a first-hand experience for someone who has taken hormone therapy. I’m tagging @luladavis @maureenkarras and @lecase to see if they will join this discussion.

Maureen wrote a while back about side effects of exemestane, one of the other aromatase inhibitors https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/dry-skin-red-itching-burning-and-peeling/ and Lecase asked about the pros and cons of anastrozole and tamoxifen. https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/can-anyone-speak-to-the-proscons-of-arimidex-vs-tomoxifen-ive-been-on/

Tina, what kind of breast cancer did you have and what treatments? How are you doing?

Jump to this post

I just joined this group to check out others experiences with Anastrozole. I recently (Nov 6) had a lumpectomy (stage 1 DCIS) with a very tiny "micro invasion". My tumor would have been Stage 0 if there had not been any micro invasion. No radiation but a prescription for Anastrozole. I am 79 yrs old and also have Multiple Myeloma which has been treated successfully for the last 3 years. I will have infusions of Darzalex for the rest of my life – now only 1 x a month. After reading all of the horrible side effects and talking to other survivors I have decided to take my chances and hopefully live a life of some quality. My bones have thinned from the myeloma and the thought of further thinning is very frightening. I had to have some chemo for the myeloma and it gave me neuropathy which is in itself very painful and makes me "wobbly" (I have to use a cane.) I plan to talk to my Oncologist next week about this and hopefully she can help me with diet, exercise and weight control so that any cancer recurrence would be minimized if it came back at all. I would just like to live the rest of my life without everything that goes with this drug. Has anyone else taken this path and is doing well?

REPLY
@maryaronoff

I just joined this group to check out others experiences with Anastrozole. I recently (Nov 6) had a lumpectomy (stage 1 DCIS) with a very tiny "micro invasion". My tumor would have been Stage 0 if there had not been any micro invasion. No radiation but a prescription for Anastrozole. I am 79 yrs old and also have Multiple Myeloma which has been treated successfully for the last 3 years. I will have infusions of Darzalex for the rest of my life – now only 1 x a month. After reading all of the horrible side effects and talking to other survivors I have decided to take my chances and hopefully live a life of some quality. My bones have thinned from the myeloma and the thought of further thinning is very frightening. I had to have some chemo for the myeloma and it gave me neuropathy which is in itself very painful and makes me "wobbly" (I have to use a cane.) I plan to talk to my Oncologist next week about this and hopefully she can help me with diet, exercise and weight control so that any cancer recurrence would be minimized if it came back at all. I would just like to live the rest of my life without everything that goes with this drug. Has anyone else taken this path and is doing well?

Jump to this post

@maryaronoff
I'm on the same ship in the sense that we are among the older cohorts who acquired breast cancer… and oncologists just don't have sufficient data on us (most of us are going to die from heart disease, unrelated to the cancer). Like you, I also have chemo-induced neuropathy and it's a bear, despite 4-5 hrs. a week of exercise designed to regain balance and coordination lost to the chemo. After reading a great deal of research, and knowing that I react negatively to most medications, I chose to take half an anastrozole a day for seven years (most bc survivors quit their aromatase inhibitors within two years because of the side effects). Yes, recurrence is high for our age group, but it's also high after five years of the anastrozole at any age. Yes, they can treat the bone-thinning, but falls (made more likely from the neuropathy) still break bones which can be catastrophic for our age group. Focusing on a good diet, a healthy weight, and exercise (which can slow bone-thinning) always are important, but are especially important for those of us on this particular ship who want a longer and healthy life. There are many pros and cons regarding anastrozole and each of us has to do the research in light of our particular situation (like HER2 status, cancer type, bone density, and other health concerns) and make a decision, always with a Plan B in mind. Wishing you the best!

REPLY
@maryaronoff

I just joined this group to check out others experiences with Anastrozole. I recently (Nov 6) had a lumpectomy (stage 1 DCIS) with a very tiny "micro invasion". My tumor would have been Stage 0 if there had not been any micro invasion. No radiation but a prescription for Anastrozole. I am 79 yrs old and also have Multiple Myeloma which has been treated successfully for the last 3 years. I will have infusions of Darzalex for the rest of my life – now only 1 x a month. After reading all of the horrible side effects and talking to other survivors I have decided to take my chances and hopefully live a life of some quality. My bones have thinned from the myeloma and the thought of further thinning is very frightening. I had to have some chemo for the myeloma and it gave me neuropathy which is in itself very painful and makes me "wobbly" (I have to use a cane.) I plan to talk to my Oncologist next week about this and hopefully she can help me with diet, exercise and weight control so that any cancer recurrence would be minimized if it came back at all. I would just like to live the rest of my life without everything that goes with this drug. Has anyone else taken this path and is doing well?

Jump to this post

Welcome @maryaronoff. You certainly have a unique set of considerations when deciding to take anastrozole or not. Your concerns and questions about combined side effects due to medications for breast cancer and multiple myeloma are good ones to ask your oncologist. I'll be interested in your decision after you weigh the pros and cons with your team. There are others here who, for their circumstances, chose not to take an AI, like @cindylb.

Mary, you may also interested in the discussions about multipe myeloma in the Blood Cancers group (https://connect.mayoclinic.org/group/blood-cancers-disorders/)
– Multiple Myeloma https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/multiple-myeloma-1/
– Multiple Myeloma https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/multiple-myeloma-26f521/
– Darzalex Treatment https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/darzalex-treatment/

REPLY
@colleenyoung

Welcome @maryaronoff. You certainly have a unique set of considerations when deciding to take anastrozole or not. Your concerns and questions about combined side effects due to medications for breast cancer and multiple myeloma are good ones to ask your oncologist. I'll be interested in your decision after you weigh the pros and cons with your team. There are others here who, for their circumstances, chose not to take an AI, like @cindylb.

Mary, you may also interested in the discussions about multipe myeloma in the Blood Cancers group (https://connect.mayoclinic.org/group/blood-cancers-disorders/)
– Multiple Myeloma https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/multiple-myeloma-1/
– Multiple Myeloma https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/multiple-myeloma-26f521/
– Darzalex Treatment https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/darzalex-treatment/

Jump to this post

My name is Celia, I live in Switzerland and had a cancer removed from one breast last year. my first oncologist prescribed Anastrazole, the second oncologist prescribed Aroma tase and this third Professor Oncologist said that I should quit all these terrible new medecins and take 20mg of Tamoxifen a day for 5 years – a drug of more than 20 years on the market and is the best and least harmful. I have been taking this drug now for a year and feel tired and this worries me because I felt quite vigorous before taking this drug which deprives me of my Estrogen – a very peculiar way to keep cancer at bay! Is there a better solution?
Thanks in advance for your replies and a very Happy New Year to you all.
Celia

REPLY
@brianphilip

My name is Celia, I live in Switzerland and had a cancer removed from one breast last year. my first oncologist prescribed Anastrazole, the second oncologist prescribed Aroma tase and this third Professor Oncologist said that I should quit all these terrible new medecins and take 20mg of Tamoxifen a day for 5 years – a drug of more than 20 years on the market and is the best and least harmful. I have been taking this drug now for a year and feel tired and this worries me because I felt quite vigorous before taking this drug which deprives me of my Estrogen – a very peculiar way to keep cancer at bay! Is there a better solution?
Thanks in advance for your replies and a very Happy New Year to you all.
Celia

Jump to this post

Hi Celia,
That must be so confusing to get different opinions from different specialists. Perhaps I can clarify at least one apparent misunderstanding. Aromatase inhibitors (AIs) are a class of drugs that stop the production of estrogen in postmenopausal women. There are several kinds, for example:
Anastrozole (Arimidex)
Letrozole (Femara)
Exemestane (Aromasin)

It sounds like the first oncologist suggests anastrozole (brand name Arimidex) and the second prescribed exemestane (brand name Aromasin). Studies have found that they are equally effective, but they have different side effects. Every person reacts differently, so the choice is usually made according to which side effects you experience and which you can tolerate.

Tamoxifen is the oldest and most-prescribed selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM). While an aromatase inhibitor is the first hormonal therapy medicine choice for postmenopausal women, tamoxifen is the first choice for premenopausal women and is still a good choice for postmenopausal women who can't take an aromatase inhibitor.

A number of studies have compared aromatase inhibitors with tamoxifen to see which type of medicine was more effective in treating early-stage, hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

I copied selected information above from the website BreastCancer.org from these 2 articles:
https://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/hormonal/aromatase_inhibitors
https://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/hormonal/serms/tamoxifen

I hope this helps to give you more information to discuss with your oncologist. I also look forward to hearing the experiences of others who may have had to choose between an AI and Tamoxifen.

Liked by kathyomaha55

REPLY

I have almost finished two years of Anastrozole. I can't say that I have noticed significant hair loss, but man oh man do I experience bone & joint pain. It is becoming difficult to get up out of a chair and I walk like an old lady. Am seriously thinking of stopping the drug.

REPLY

I started this drug only in November 2018. So far I have the dry eyes, but am wondering how I can tell the difference in knee pain from arthritis vs. the side effects of anastrozole. Also feeling tired all the time. Does anyone have any suggestions to the tiredness? I'm 63, Stage 1, HR+, ER+, HER-. I only needed radiation. Also hot flashes have increased. 🙁 Several people mentioned most women stop taking it from the side effects – what is the percentage of these people? I was told 5 to 10 yrs on this. I hope in 5 years they will have more info on whether another 5 years helps or not.

REPLY
@kathyomaha55

I started this drug only in November 2018. So far I have the dry eyes, but am wondering how I can tell the difference in knee pain from arthritis vs. the side effects of anastrozole. Also feeling tired all the time. Does anyone have any suggestions to the tiredness? I'm 63, Stage 1, HR+, ER+, HER-. I only needed radiation. Also hot flashes have increased. 🙁 Several people mentioned most women stop taking it from the side effects – what is the percentage of these people? I was told 5 to 10 yrs on this. I hope in 5 years they will have more info on whether another 5 years helps or not.

Jump to this post

@kathyomaha55
Exercise will help…with fatigue 🙂

REPLY

@kathyomaha55 @cemd03
As @cemd03 noted, exercise helps with the fatigue (try something easy on arthritic joints like walking briskly on a treadmill at the gym). As you likely, know, one of the biggest side effects of radiation is fatigue and you likely will battle that for at least a year. My favorite product for dry eyes is Systane Gel Drops, by the way; and, for hot flashes, a Chinese herbal called Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan which I get from a doctor of Chinese medicine.

As to the anastrozole, arthralgia (and fatigue) is a common side effect, and, yes, it's difficult to discern what is arthritis pain and what is the arthralgia pain from the anastrozole. Again, try something easy on the joints like walking briskly on a treadmill at the gym. It helps with both conditions.

Genetics play a role in how we metabolize drugs and experience their side effects. About a third of us taking any kind of AI experience muscle and bone aches/pains with them. About 25% either don't start taking a prescribed AI or stop taking it early because of side effects. I've seen stats which suggest that maybe the majority of us don't continue for the length of time prescribed. The fact remains: those with hormone positive BC who do not take an AI are more likely to experience a recurrence… and that should serve as an incentive to try taking one.

If you are struggling with anastrozole, ask your oncologist to switch you to femara or aromasin to see if your particular body can accommodate one of them with fewer issues. AIs work to block cell receptors like estrogen and progesterone in breast cancers that are hormone receptor positive in post-menopausal women. Another choice is to take half a pill per day, or, none at all. Just be sure that you are making an informed choice, however, and read up on all the studies.

And lastly, be easy on yourself. Take that nap when needed… no shame there. No one ever said that cancer recovery was going to be a snap. A good diet also is important, as is achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular screening mammograms, and bone density tests. We're strong… and we can get this recovery business right!

REPLY
@elizm

@kathyomaha55 @cemd03
As @cemd03 noted, exercise helps with the fatigue (try something easy on arthritic joints like walking briskly on a treadmill at the gym). As you likely, know, one of the biggest side effects of radiation is fatigue and you likely will battle that for at least a year. My favorite product for dry eyes is Systane Gel Drops, by the way; and, for hot flashes, a Chinese herbal called Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan which I get from a doctor of Chinese medicine.

As to the anastrozole, arthralgia (and fatigue) is a common side effect, and, yes, it's difficult to discern what is arthritis pain and what is the arthralgia pain from the anastrozole. Again, try something easy on the joints like walking briskly on a treadmill at the gym. It helps with both conditions.

Genetics play a role in how we metabolize drugs and experience their side effects. About a third of us taking any kind of AI experience muscle and bone aches/pains with them. About 25% either don't start taking a prescribed AI or stop taking it early because of side effects. I've seen stats which suggest that maybe the majority of us don't continue for the length of time prescribed. The fact remains: those with hormone positive BC who do not take an AI are more likely to experience a recurrence… and that should serve as an incentive to try taking one.

If you are struggling with anastrozole, ask your oncologist to switch you to femara or aromasin to see if your particular body can accommodate one of them with fewer issues. AIs work to block cell receptors like estrogen and progesterone in breast cancers that are hormone receptor positive in post-menopausal women. Another choice is to take half a pill per day, or, none at all. Just be sure that you are making an informed choice, however, and read up on all the studies.

And lastly, be easy on yourself. Take that nap when needed… no shame there. No one ever said that cancer recovery was going to be a snap. A good diet also is important, as is achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular screening mammograms, and bone density tests. We're strong… and we can get this recovery business right!

Jump to this post

My current plan is to take it as long as the doctors tell me to. Thanks for the information. 🙂

REPLY

You could ask your Oncologist about Tamoxyfen which has been on the market for many years and is very well tolerated and has very little side effects to none compared to Anastrazole with terrible side effects. One sometimes wonders if some Doctors have a personal interest in this prescription!
Ask for a second opinion without mentioning Anastrazole.

REPLY

also be sure to ask about possible interactions with other drugs that you might be taking. I am beginning to think that some of my side effects such as joint pain are from an interaction between atorvastatin (Lipitor) and the anastrazole… Sometimes things happen that are not within the doctor's usual scope of knowledge.

REPLY
@brianphilip

You could ask your Oncologist about Tamoxyfen which has been on the market for many years and is very well tolerated and has very little side effects to none compared to Anastrazole with terrible side effects. One sometimes wonders if some Doctors have a personal interest in this prescription!
Ask for a second opinion without mentioning Anastrazole.

Jump to this post

@brianphilip
Tamoxifen is prescribed to pre-menopausal women and has many side effects (some especially serious like blood clots, stroke, endometrial cancer, etc.). AIs are prescribed to post-menopausal women.

REPLY
@oilermama

also be sure to ask about possible interactions with other drugs that you might be taking. I am beginning to think that some of my side effects such as joint pain are from an interaction between atorvastatin (Lipitor) and the anastrazole… Sometimes things happen that are not within the doctor's usual scope of knowledge.

Jump to this post

@oilermama
I had similar concerns regarding my statin and recently asked my GP if I could take a break from it to see if I feel better. Yes, some of the muscle pain issues are better, but the bone and joint pains remain, *sigh*

REPLY
Please login or register to post a reply.