Nolvadex (generic: tamoxifen) is a prescription medication used to treat certain breast cancers (including those that have spread to other parts of the body), and to prevent breast cancer in women that are at a high risk of developing it. Nolvadex belongs to a group of drugs called antiestrogens, which help stop the growth of breast tumors by blocking the activity of estrogen in the breast.
This medication comes in tablet form and is taken once or twice a day. Swallow Nolvadex tablets whole.
Common side effects of Nolvadex include hot flashes and vaginal discharge.
Nolvadex is a prescription medication used:
- to lower the chance of getting breast cancer in women with a higher than normal chance of getting breast cancer in the next 5 years (high-risk women)
- to lower the chance of getting invasive (spreading) breast cancer in women who had surgery and radiation for ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). DCIS means the cancer is only inside the milk ducts.
- to treat breast cancer in women after they have finished early treatment. Early treatment can include surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Nolvadex may keep the cancer from spreading to others parts of the body. It may also reduce the woman’s chance of getting a new breast cancer.
- in women and men, to treat breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (metastatic breast cancer).
This medication may be prescribed for other uses. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
The most common side effect of Nolvadex is hot flashes. This is not a sign of a serious problem.
The next most common side effect is vaginal discharge. If the discharge is bloody, it could be a sign of a serious problem.
Less common but serious side effects of Nolvadex are listed below. These can occur at any time. Call your doctor right away if you have any signs of side effects listed below:
Changes in the lining (endometrium) or body of your uterus. These changes may mean serious problems are starting, including cancer of the uterus. The signs of changes in the uterus are:
- Vaginal bleeding or bloody discharge that could be a rusty or brown color. You should call your doctor even if only a small amount of bleeding occurs.
- Change in your monthly bleeding, such as in the amount or timing of bleeding or increased clotting.
- Pain or pressure in your pelvis (below your belly button).
Blood clots in your veins or lungs. These can cause serious problems, including death. You may get clots up to 2-3 months after you stop taking Nolvadex. The signs of blood clots are:
- sudden chest pain, shortness of breath, coughing up blood
- pain, tenderness, or swelling in one or both of your legs
Stroke. Stroke can cause serious medical problems, including death. The signs of stroke are:
- sudden weakness, tingling, or numbness in your face, arm or leg, especially on one side of your body
- sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- sudden severe headache with no known cause
Cataracts or increased chance of needing cataract surgery. The sign of these problems is slow blurring of your vision.
Liver problems, including jaundice. The signs of liver problems include lack of appetite and yellowing of your skin or whites of your eyes.
Have regular gynecology check-ups (“female exams”), breast exams and mammograms. Your doctor will tell you how often. These will check for signs of breast cancer and cancer of the endometrium (lining of the uterus). Because Nolvadex does not prevent all breast cancers, and you may get other types of cancers, you need these exams to find any cancers as early as possible.
Because Nolvadex can cause serious side effects, pay close attention to your body.
These are not all the possible side effects of Nolvadex. For a complete list, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Especially tell your doctor if you take:
- warfarin (Coumadin) or other anticoagulants ("blood thinners")
- aminoglutethimide (Cytadren)
- anastrazole (Arimidex)
- bromocriptine (Parlodel)
- cancer chemotherapy medication such as cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, Neosar) letrozole (Femara)
- medroxyprogesterone (Depo-Provera, Provera, in Prempro)
- phenobarbital; and rifampin (Rifadin, Rimactane)
This is not a complete list of Nolvadex drug interactions. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.
Do not take Nolvadex for any reason if you:
- Are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while taking Nolvadex or during the 2 months after you stop taking Nolvadex. Nolvadex may harm your unborn baby. It takes about 2 months to clear Nolvadex from your body. To be sure you are not pregnant, you can start taking Nolvadex while you are having your menstrual period. Or, you can take a pregnancy test to be sure you are not pregnant before you begin.
- Are breast feeding. We do not know if Nolvadex can pass through your milk and harm your baby.
- Have had an allergic reaction to Nolvadex or tamoxifen (the other name for Nolvadex), or to any of its inactive ingredients.
If you get pregnant while taking Nolvadex, stop taking it right away and contact your doctor. Nolvadex may harm your unborn baby.
Do not take Nolvadex to lower your chance of getting breast cancer if:
- You ever had a blood clot that needed medical treatment.
- You are taking medicines to thin your blood, like warfarin, (also called Coumadin®*).
- Your ability to move around is limited for most of your waking hours.
- You are at risk for blood clots. Your doctor can tell you if you are at high risk for blood clots.
- You do not have a higher than normal chance of getting breast cancer. Your doctor can tell you if you are a high-risk woman.
Medicines can interact with certain foods. In some cases, this may be harmful and your doctor may advise you to avoid certain foods. In the case of Nolvadex there are no specific foods that you must exclude from your diet when receiving Nolvadex.
Tell your doctor if:
- you are allergic to tamoxifen or any other medications.
- if you have high cholesterol.
- you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Tell all of the doctors that you see that you are taking Nolvadex.
Tell your doctor right away if you have any new breast lumps.
Do not become pregnant while taking Nolvadex or for 2 months after you stop. Nolvadex can stop hormonal birth control methods from working. Hormonal methods include birth control pills, patches, injections, rings and implants. Therefore, while taking Nolvadex, use birth control methods that don’t use hormones, such as condoms, diaphragms with spermicide, or plain IUD’s. If you get pregnant, stop taking Nolvadex right away and call your doctor.
Do not breastfeed. We do not know if Nolvadex can pass through your milk and if it can harm the baby.
Swallow the tablet(s) whole, with water or another non-alcoholic liquid. You can take Nolvadex with or without food. Take your medicine every day. It may be easier to remember if you take it at the same time each day.
If you forget a dose, take it when you remember, then take the next dose as usual. If it is almost time for your next dose or you remember at your next dose, do not take extra tablets to make up the missed dose.
Take Nolvadex for 5 years, unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
If you take too much Nolvadex, call your local Poison Control Center or seek emergency medical attention right away.
Nolvadex is available as 10 mg and 20 mg tablets.
Ingredients: tamoxifen citrate, carboxymethylcellulose calcium, magnesium stearate, mannitol and starch.
Store Nolvadex at room temperature.
Keep this and all medicines out of the reach of children.
For Women with Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS) and Women at High Risk for Breast Cancer: Serious and life-threatening events associated with Nolvadex in the risk reduction setting (women at high risk for cancer and women with DCIS) include uterine malignancies, stroke and pulmonary embolism. Incidence rates for these events were estimated from the NSABP P-1 trial. Uterine malignancies consist of both endometrial adenocarcinoma (incidence rate per 1,000 women-years of 2.20 for Nolvadex vs 0.71 for placebo) and uterine sarcoma (incidence rate per 1,000 women-years of 0.17 for Nolvadex vs 0.04 for placebo)*. For stroke, the incidence rate per 1,000 women-years was 1.43 for Nolvadex vs 1.00 for placebo. For pulmonary embolism, the incidence rate per 1,000 women-years was 0.75 for Nolvadex versus 0.25 for placebo.
Some of the strokes, pulmonary emboli, and uterine malignancies were fatal.
Health care providers should discuss the potential benefits versus the potential risks of these serious events with women at high risk of breast cancer and women with DCIS considering Nolvadex to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer.
The benefits of Nolvadex outweigh its risks in women already diagnosed with breast cancer.
*Updated long-term follow-up data (median length of follow-up is 6.9 years) from NSABP P-1 study.