Before considering long-term treatment to reduce the risk of breast cancer, women should talk with their health care team about their breast cancer risk. Assessing a woman's risk of breast cancer helps the doctor to determine if these drugs can help reduce the risk of breast cancer. Because women taking either drug have a risk of side effects, it is important to talk with your doctor to learn about the risks and benefits of such treatment. A woman who has a higher risk of breast cancer and a lower risk of having side effects from a drug should receive the most benefit.
Both raloxifene and tamoxifen are not recommended for women with a history of blood clots or stroke, and raloxifene is not recommended for women who have not been through menopause. The use of hormone therapy to reduce the symptoms of menopause is not recommended for women taking tamoxifen or raloxifene.
Women should have a gynecological examination before taking tamoxifen, receive follow-up examinations yearly, and visit the doctor immediately if they have abnormal vaginal bleeding. The side effects of tamoxifen may include a higher risk of developing uterine cancer, blood clots, stroke, cataracts, vaginal discharge, and hot flashes.
The side effects of raloxifene may include hot flashes, leg cramps, swelling of the legs and arms, weight gain, stroke, blood clots, and pain during sexual intercourse. Women taking raloxifene are less likely to develop blood clots, noncancerous conditions of the uterus, and cataracts than women taking tamoxifen.
Tamoxifen and raloxifene have been shown to reduce the risk of ER-positive invasive breast cancer, and woman taking these drugs may still have a risk of developing other types of breast cancer. Before deciding whether to take tamoxifen or raloxifene, you may want to consider the following:
- How concerned you are about your risk of breast cancer
- Which side effects are you most concerned about
- How any side effects may affect your quality of life
Women should talk with their doctor about these concerns and the benefits and risks of taking either tamoxifen or raloxifene.