What is Letrozole? What's the use for this medication and what are the side effects?
Letrozole is the generic name for a drug called Fermara and Fermara is one of the types of aromatase inhibitors used as anti-hormone therapy in menopausal women with breast cancer. The menopause can be natural menopause or can be induced by surgery. The aromatase inhibitors have been shown to be more effective than tamoxifen and so they're very much the drug of choice in menopausal women with breast cancer.
Now like all medications there are side effects the number one side effect that women complain about with aromatase inhibitors including letrozole is bone and joint pain. This may be related to the reabsorption of calcium which is more of a problem in the use of aromatase inhibitors then it is when we're using Tamoxifen. The other side effects associated with Letrozole are the typical menopausal side effects including restlessness, the inability to sleep, hot flashes , he occasional diarrhea, hair loss potentially those are the sort of typical side effects menopausal women are complaining about all of the time particularly, obviously if they're not on hormonal therapy. Is there an issue with blood clots with Letrozole? There is, but the incidents are much smaller that is with Tamoxifen.
And that incidence is already small to begin with. You know, there are no perfect solutions when it comes to the treatment of breast cancer. The effectiveness of anti hormone therapy and invasive breast cancer is very well-established, it's a fundamental part of what we call the adjuvant or in addition to treatment of breast cancer because it's treating the whole body with anti-hormone therapy particularly important with invasive breast cancers where cells can have circulated elsewhere in the body.
The anti-hormone therapies are also important in helping to decrease the chance of a cancer reoccurring in the treated breast after a lumpectomy. Also having a preventive effect on the remaining breast so it's a very important part of our overall treatment of breast cancer. There are no side effects that can't be dealt with.
The important thing with the aromatase inhibitors is the use of calcium supplements to help with the bone loss and if you get into things like depression or the hot flashes, the medical oncologists have other thoughts and treatments for those side effects as well.
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