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Monday, April 19, 2010 Marie, Community Member, asks


I am 45 and a breast cancer survivor of 5 years. I went through chemo and radiation and a lumpectomy. Cancer was found in my lymph nodes. I have been on Tamoxafin and Atenalol (radiation affected my blood pressure). I have been fine. I moved to a new area and have a different Oncologist that wants me to go off of tamoxafin and onto Femara for the next 5 years. Apparently it will affect my jaw, teeth and bones negatively. I take Oscal, Vit D and have been identified as having osteopenia. I am now on Alendronate sodium also.

My questions are: Does something else exist that I might use rather than Femara? Should I get a second opinion about even taking Femara? What if I just don't take it or take less than what is prescribed? How often does the bone deterioration statistically occur and how bad will it be?  Can my bones rebuild after the next 5 years of on-going damage?


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Answers (3)
PJ Hamel, Health Guide
4/19/10 6:23pm

Hi Marie - I tihink you may be confused. The Fosamax (alendronate sodium) is what's been linked to jaw/tooth issues. They're VERY rare, but do occur - it's called osteonecrosis of the jaw, or "dead jaw."


The Femara wouldn't impact your possibility for these issues - though it would tend to hasten bone loss, which you're already experiencing. As for statistically how many women suffer bone loss while on Femara, it's hard to say; data collection is ongoing. I'd say a significant number of women suffer bone loss, but to varying degrees; yours might be very minor, especially since you're already taking Fosamax to combat your osteopenia.


Do your bones rebuild? Again, there's no answer to that - yet. Femara and its sister aromatase inhibitors (Aromasin, Arimidex) are still too new to the market for the data to be in.


Discuss all of this with your doctor - the fact that you're already on Fosamax, and are worried about further bone loss. Ask him/her how much Femara, after 5 years of tamoxifen, will lower your recurrence risk. If your risk was already quite low, you may decide that another few percentage points isn't worth the side effects.


Bottom line - it's your body, and you can do what you want. No one can force you to take drugs. You need to weigh the risk of bone loss and other side effects, vs. the benefit of a lowered recurrence risk, then make your choice based on how you feel - not on what someone else wants you to do. Good luck - PJH

Marie, Community Member
4/29/10 1:49pm

Thank you PJH for replying to my question. I will definitly talk to my Oncologist and appreciate you taking the time to respond. I feel somewhat better as it sounds like the risk of "dead jaw" from Fosamax is seems to be low.


truckee, Community Member
4/27/10 12:22am

Hello Marie,  I'm a cancer patient still undergoing treatment prior to surgery.  I've been taking Femara for 6 months and will take it for 3 more before I have my mastectomy and then for 5 years.  There are side effects which are annoying and can be painful. HOWEVER,  I have proof that it is shrinking my 3 tumors.  Based on that alone, I would favorably endorse it.  I strongly recommend that you seek a second opinion before you start it because of your bone density issues.  Maybe you should visit with a doctor who will be caring for your bone density issues and share that doctor's opinion with your new oncologist.  It never hurts to get a second opinion.  take care of yourself.





Marie, Community Member
4/29/10 1:57pm

Hi Truckee I appreciate your advice, I wish you all the best with your treatment. I have started taking Femara last week, and I will talk to my primary care physician with regards to my bone density.

Take care and good luck.


truckee, Community Member
4/29/10 2:51pm

Hey Marie,


You are welcome!  I'm happy to be able to help you.  I was very excited to be able to help somebody else, as these ladies here have helped me.  The Femara does have side effects other than possible bone density loss.  I have found non medicinal ways to help with the aches and pains that have developed.  Try alternating heat and ice like  you would with a simple sprain for headaches and for the joint aches.  For heat, I've made rice socks and heat them in the microwave.  Be sure to wrap them in something to avoid burns (same with the ice treatments).  The rice socks are simple to do.  Just take the right sock (as the left one always gets lost in the dryer) and put 2 cups of dry rice (any kind but instant) into it (after checking that there are no holes) and tie a knot in the open end.  Microwave for 2 to 3 minutes and you have a moist heat source that lasts for hours.  The rice sock will last a long time as long as it's kept clean.  I usually put it inside a second sock that can be removed and washed (that one can have holes).  I don't know how it works, but it does. I've been using the socks for years (to pre-heat pur bed) and for all kinds of aches and injuries.  I even put them in coat pockets for winter walks!


Don't hesitate to check back if you have questions about side effects.   Hopefully something I've stumbled on can save you time.


I hope Femara works as well for  you as it has for me.



PJ Hamel, Health Guide
4/29/10 6:32pm

Thanks for all this great advice, Truckee - my knees are killing me, I'd better try those hot socks! Smile PJH

Bren, Community Member
4/25/11 1:26am

Femara will also effect your blood pressure. Headaches, weight gain, cholesterol, bones so bad it will be difficult to walk. I too am a breast cancer survivor, 2 years clear. I only managed like a lot of people to take Femara for 4 months. I had been walking four miles a day, seven days a week and could not get a block away from my house. Long story short, you need to do alot of research on the medicine and prepare yourself for what it can and will most likely cause. 

A good web site to look for others with side effects is called  click on rate my medicine and type in Femara.  To date, it has 39 internet pages of survivors and the symptoms they have with this medicine.  This has become a passion for me. And tho I have alot to deal with of my own, my heart and soul goes out to everyone in there. This will give you real informatin that your oncologist will deny is even plausable.

But they are real. Mine are real. Even my doctor agrees they are real. We can't always treat things with meds.  Meds procduce more side effects that need more meds for more reactions. This has been me for the past two years till I said stop. I am over all feeling much better than I was three weeks ago and hope to keep getting stronger.  Things below are places to go and things to try but always with the guideance of your doctor.

1. Krill Oil: can help with a lot of issues and search krill oil. After weeks of research I have decided on a brand called Healty Ways 100% patented NKO Krill Oil. MegaRed Krill Oil by Schiff is good but not dependable to be the NKO type of oil. READ READ READ

PLEASE please read this. I could hardly walk or get up after sitting.  Within a week it helped my hands which I had braces for and less than two weeks I could go up and down stairs normal, get up after sitting for a length of time. Anything you take you need to research and talk with your doctor first.

2. Herbs of Gold - Pain Ease: Herbs of Gold is the brand name. Pain Ease it what your looking for. This product comes from Austraila and I think I got it from Vitamin Wharehouse . . . It will come up in a search for the product. I have only been taking for two weeks and will have to see in the long run.

My best to you and your health and treatment.  B

Pain-Ease - Herbal Anti-Inflammatory

Relief of:
Joint Pain
Back Pain
Symptoms of Arthritis
Each tablet contains:
herbal extracts equiv. to dry

Harpagophytum procumbens (Devil's claw) root........1.5g
Boswellia serrata (Frankincense) gum resin...............1g
Zingiber officinale (Ginger) root...........................500mg
Curcuma longa (Turmeric) rhizome.....................300mg
Piper nigrum (Black pepper) fruit........................150mg 
Adults - Take 1-2 tablets daily with food; for joint and muscle pain, take 2 tablets daily; as a digestive aid, take 1 tablet daily, or as directed by your healthcare practitioner.
"Ayurvedic medicine (meaning "science of life") is a comprehensive system of medicine that combines natural therapies with a highly personalized approach to the treatment of disease. ... an alternative form of treatment, natural"


Pain-Ease is a herbal anti-inflammatory formula that provides a combination of Devil's claw, Boswellia, Ginger, Turmeric and Black Pepper.

Boswellia gum resin has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine and has been used traditionally for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects in conditions such as gout and digestive disturbances. In clinical research, Boswellia has assisted in the relief of joint pain and swelling associated with Osteoarthritis.

Ginger has also been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for the relief of Rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation and muscular disorders. Clinical research has supported this traditional usage, demonstrating its potential benefits in the relief of symptoms of Osteoarthritis, such as pain and swelling. Traditionally, Ginger has also been used in the relief of flatulent dyspepsia and is considered a warming herb which stimulates digestion.

Devil's claw has been used traditionally for the relief of dyspepsia, pain and fever and as a bitter tonic to stimulate appetite. Clinical research has shown that Devil's claw may relieve joint pain and swelling and may improve mobility and muscular discomfort of the back, neck and shoulders. Devil's claw may also assist in the relief of lower back pain.

Turmeric may also assist in the improvement of joint mobility, helping to relieve stiffness and swelling associated with Osteoarthritis.
This herb has been used in traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine particularly as an anti-inflammatory agent, for poor digestion and for the relief of flatulence.

Pain-Ease also contains Black pepper, which has been used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine as a digestive aid for dyspepsia and flatulence. Traditionally Black pepper, when used in combination with other herbs, has been shown to enhance their bioavailability.  



PJ Hamel, Health Guide
4/25/11 5:34am

Bren, we each have our own response to the different medications we need to take during cancer treatment. Sounds like you've had a very challenging time; I'm glad you're feeling better now. I'd like to caution our readers that your kind of  pain happens, but isn't typical. I took an AI (Arimidex) for 5 years, with very manageable side effects. Readers also need to understand that anything- ANYTHING - they take in conjuction with cancer drugs needs to be vetted by their oncologist first. Even an aspirin. The last thing you want to do is have some OTC supplement clash with the prescription drug you're taking, and negate its effectiveness. Good luck going forward- I hope you continue to recover from this tough experience. PJH

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By Marie, Community Member— Last Modified: 03/19/13, First Published: 04/19/10