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Monday, August 16, 2010 melancholic, Community Member, asks

Q: arimidex and throbbing sciatica pain

I had an Estrogen/Progesterone + cancer with 3 cancer cells in first node -30 other nodes clear. I had a lumpectomy, followed by radiation, and so far 8 months on arimidex. I have developed joint pains in my hands and feet and severe sciatica throbbing pain in my left leg, which is worse at night.  I am also a post menopausal woman with osteoporosis. My onc is willing to switch me to another medication but from what I read they are all scarey. I do not know what to do. The pain is just getting worse and I am having trouble sleeping.I am seriously thinking of stopping the arimidex. Any thoughts?

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Answers (2)
PJ Hamel, Health Guide
8/16/10 5:22pm

I think, in your case, you should switch to tamoxifen. Tamoxifen used to be the gold standard for hormone-responsive breast cancer in both pre- and post-menopausal women. While aromatase inhibitors (e.g., Arimidex) have proved somewhat more effective for post-menopausal women, tamoxifen is still effective. And tamoxifen actually increases bone strength; plus it doesn't come with the joint pain. It increases your risk of uterine/endometrial cancer very slightly; but the risk remains very, very small overall. Ask you onco what s/he thinks - I'd think it would be better to take tamoxifen than nothing at all... Good luck - PJH

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melancholic, Community Member
8/16/10 6:24pm

Thank you for your advice.I will see my oncologist the second week in Sept. How would I be checked for developing uterine/endometrial cancer if I take tamoxifen? Thank you for stating that the risk is very small. It is so scary to read about the side effects of any drugs.

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PJ Hamel, Health Guide
8/16/10 9:23pm

You wouldn't be checked - you'd just be made aware of the symptoms, so that you could be on the lookout. I took tamoxifen for 3 years, and never worried a moment about a secondary cancer... if I remember correctly, the likelihood is under 1%.

 

Think of it this way - if you don't take tamoxifen (or an AI), your chance of a recurrence of breast cancer is probably many, many times greater than your risk of cancer from taking tamoxifen. You won't be without risk - none of us ever is. Even women who've never had cancer have a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer at some point during their life. Your chance of uterine or endometrial cancer would be much less than that. It's tough not to worry; but if there's one thing we can control in life, it's our attitude. Why not try to believe that you'll be well and healthy, rather than focus on the small possibility you won't be? It's a lot less stressful... Be well - PJH

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ProvidencePatient, Community Member
12/ 6/10 4:48pm

I was diagnosed with a very small invasive breast cancer, estrogen positive, in 2008. I've been through Arimidex, Aromasin, then Tamoxifen, which was admittedly less painful for the joints and better for not causing fatigue. However, I took it only a few months and developed pulmonary embolisms in both lungs, upper branches. There were very few signs. I thought I had an infection and ended up in the hospital with life-threatening blockages. I had noticed my fingernails splintering, along with the general feeling of ill health, and was within days of stopping Tamoxifen. Now, a couple months after the embolisms, I have been diagnosed with snowflake cataracts. So, of the four serious side effects (one being endometrial cancer) I have had two with possibly more to go. When you are that 1/1000th person that will have this happen, it really makes you stop and think about putting poisons into your body for even a "proven" treatment. I don't think the NIH web site emphasizes enough how dangerous these chemicals are.

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ProvidencePatient, Community Member
12/ 6/10 4:49pm

I also am left with evening, throbbing sciatica. There seems to be no relief so far. I've had this for over three months now.

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PJ Hamel, Health Guide
12/ 6/10 5:28pm

Has your oncologist offered to try a range of painkillers? Have you reported the pain? If the answer to either question is "no," then pursue these avenues. If everything possible has been done to relieve your pain, then unfortunately you have to decide between Arimidex and quality of life. One possible compromise would be to take tamoxifen, not quite as effective as Arimidex, but also without the bone and join-pain side effects. This is something you might want to discuss with your oncologist. Good luck - PJH

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melancholic, Community Member
12/ 6/10 7:49pm

Hi, I switched to tamoxifen a month ago. So far, I am not experiencing any side effects.  I am also doing an alternative, comlementary therapy - iscador treatments.  I am sorry to read on this list about the person who had a terrible time with tamoxifen, I can only pray that it will not happen to me.

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PJ Hamel, Health Guide
12/ 6/10 8:01pm

I know personally I had a lot easier time on tamoxifen than Arimidex. And that's been the experience of most of my friends, too. So hopefully it'll be the same for you... best of luck with it! PJH

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By melancholic, Community Member— Last Modified: 12/27/10, First Published: 08/16/10