Toremifene is a hormone therapy drug used to treat breast cancer.
HOW DOES TOREMIFENE WORK?
Hormones are substances produced naturally in the body. These act as chemical messengers and help control the activity of cells and organs. Hormone therapies interfere with the way hormones are made or formed in the body.
Many types of breast cancer depend on the hormone estrogen to grow. This type of breast is called estrogen receptor-positive (ER-positive) breast cancer. Toremifene blocks estrogen from reaching the cancer cells. This means the cancer grows more slowly or stops growing altogether.
WHEN IS TOREMIFENE USED?
Toremifene can be used to treat women with estrogen receptor-positive (ER-positive) breast cancer who have gone through menopause. It is generally used to control breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (secondary breast cancer).
Toremifene can be taken as long as it is effective in controlling the cancer. You and your doctors will discuss what length of treatment is appropriate for your situation.
TAKING YOUR TOREMIFENE TABLETS
Toremifene is taken in pill form, normally once a day. The pills are taken at the same time each day, either in the morning or at night. Always take the pills exactly as your nurse or pharmacist has told you. This is important to ensure that it is working as well as possible.
There are certain important things to remember when taking the tablets.
- Avoid eating grapefruit or drinking grapefruit juice while taking toremifene.
- Do not double the dose if you forget to take one of your pills.
- Keep the tablets in their original packaging at room temperature. They should be stored away from heat and direct sunlight.
- Keep them safe and out of the reach of children.
- Get a new prescription before the one you have runs out, and keep track of holidays, when pharmacies may be closed.
- Return the remaining pills to the hospital if the treatment is discontinued.
POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS OF TOREMIFENE
You may experience some of the side effects mentioned here, though it is rare for a patient to have all of them. If you are taking other drugs, you may have certain side effects that are not listed here.
Always inform your doctor or nurse of the side effects you experience. They can prescribe drugs to help control them and can also give you advice on managing side effects. Do not stop taking toremifene without talking to your doctor first.
HOT FLASHES AND SWEATING
These are common side effects. They may gradually let up during the first few months, although some women keep getting hot flashes throughout the time they take toremifene.
It can help to lower your intake of nicotine, alcohol, and hot beverages containing caffeine such as tea and coffee. Dress in layers so you can remove clothing if you need to. Natural fabrics such as cotton may be most comfortable.
Tell your doctor if your hot flashes become bothersome. Low doses of certain antidepressants can help reduce hot flashes.
Some women have vaginal discharge or bleeding while undergoing this treatment. It is always important that you tell your doctor or nurse if you notice any unusual bleeding from the vagina.
You may have nausea when you start taking toremifene. This often gets better or disappears within a few weeks. Taking your pills with food or milk or at night can help.
You may feel more tired than usual. Try to strike a balance between periods of rest and some physical activity such as short walks. Doing this can help you feel less tired.
FLUID BUILD-UP (EDEMA)
Some women may have swollen ankles or fingers when taking toremifene. This is caused by a build up of fluid called edema. This is normally mild. If you notice any inflammation or swelling, tell your nurse or doctor.
EFFECTS ON THE SKIN
Toremifene can cause a skin rash or itchiness. These side effects are normally mild. Tell your doctor if you develop a skin rash or have itchiness. They can prescribe drugs or creams to help.
DIZZINESS OR CHANGES IN VISION
Some women may have dizziness. In rare cases, they may have blurriness or changes to their vision. These side effects can be worse if toremifene is taken with alcohol. Always tell your doctor or nurse if you have any of these side effects. Avoid driving and operating machinery if you have these.
Some people go through mood swings or feel low or depressed while they are taking toremifene. Let your doctor or nurse know if this happens. They can recommend ways to help this.
LESS COMMON SIDE EFFECTS OF TOREMIFENE
BLOOD CLOTS (Thrombosis)
This happens rarely. The signs of a blood clot include pain, heat, swelling, or tenderness in an arm or leg or chest pain. Tell your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms. Toremifene is not normally given to people who have had previous blood clots.
INCREASED RISK OF UTERINE CANCER
Women who have gone through menopause and have been taking toremifene for a long period of time are at a slightly higher risk of developing uterine cancer. Your doctor will set up a series of annual tests to examine your uterus while you are taking toremifene. When uterine cancer is detected in time, early treatment is very successful.
Vaginal bleeding after menopause can be an early sign of uterine cancer, although bleeding from the vagina is usually caused by conditions other than cancer. Always inform your doctor if you are experiencing vaginal bleeding so they can determine the cause.
CHANGES TO THE HEART RATE
A small percentage of people develop changes in their heart rate when taking this drug. Tell your doctor if you have ever had changes in your heart rate or any other heart problem. You should also let them know if you are taking any medication for your heart. If you notice a change in your heartbeat, it is important that you tell your doctor. You can undergo tests to check on your heart rate (ECG).
Toremifene can interact with other drugs. This includes medications that can be purchased in a store or pharmacy. Tell your doctor if you are taking any drugs, including complementary therapies, and herbal remedies.
MEDICAL OR DENTAL TREATMENT
If you have to go to the hospital for whatever reason other than cancer, always tell the doctors and nurses that you are taking toremifene. Explain that you are taking hormone therapy that no one should start or stop without taking to your cancer specialist in the first place.
Always let your dentist know that you are taking toremifene.