Coping With Tamoxifen Side Effects Coping-With-Tamoxifen-Side-EffectsCoping With Tamoxifen Side Effects

As a breast cancer coach, one of the most asked questions is how to cope with Tamoxifen side effects, so today I’m offering assistance!

Tamoxifen is a drug recommended for people whose breast cancer cells exhibited estrogen receptors, termed ER+ breast cancer.

The Action of Tamoxifen

Tamoxifen is in a class of drugs called “SERMs” – selective estrogen-receptor modifiers.  Tamoxifen’s action is to occupy an estrogen receptor on a cell, thus paralyzing the receptor and preventing it from triggering the events that result in cell division.  It does not kill cancer cells, rather it disables them or puts them to sleep.  Tamoxifen targets not only the estrogen receptors in breast tissue, but also all of the other cells in the body that have estrogen receptors.

Tamoxifen Side Effects

Tamoxifen is currently the “gold standard” treatment recommended for all women with hormone driven breast cancer, regardless of the stage.  The recommendation of most oncologists for women with ER+ breast cancer is that taking this medication for 5 years after a breast cancer diagnosis can supposedly reduce the risk of recurrence by up to 50%, which is a very persuasive figure.  They are now recommending Tamoxifen use for up to 10 years.

I am not convinced that Tamoxifen is such a wonder drug, and I discuss why in my article Why I Chose Against Hormone Blocking Drugs.

Part of my problem with Tamoxifen is the wide range of side effects which include headaches, dizziness, nausea, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, leg cramps, hair thinning, brain fog, pins and needles in hands and feet, joint pain, moodiness, depression and anxiety.

Tamoxifen may also put a patient at a higher risk for blood clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) and the lungs (pulmonary embolism), endometrial cancer and overgrowth of the lining of the uterus.

Since women are recommended to be on this drug for 5-10 years, their concerns about the side effects and loss of enjoyment of life are very real.

It Doesn’t Work For Everyone

What we are finding out here in the trenches is that this drug works for some but definitely not all.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been told by a woman that she took the Tamoxifen for the prescribed amount of time and is still battling her second or even third round of breast cancer.  So it is clear that the drug doesn’t work for everyone.

Are There Alternatives To Tamoxifen?

At this time, there do not appear to be any good research studies that directly compare specific diets or nutritional strategies with the use Tamoxifen to prevent breast cancer recurrence.  Having said that, we do know that a healthy diet and plenty of exercise are truly important, they do make a big difference, and this has been proven by research studies.

The Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) study followed 1,500 women with early stage breast cancer who were treated between 1991 and 2000, and found that women who both ate plenty of vegetables and fruit every day as well as got regular physical activity were nearly 50% less likely to die during the study follow up.  In this study both women taking Tamoxifen and not taking Tamoxifen were included, so it is clear that diet and exercise are incredibly important for staying well.

For those who choose to take Tamoxifen, some of the side effects can be quite troublesome and these people really need some help.

Here Are My Best Recommendations For Coping With Tamoxifen Side Effects:

Headaches – Having a regular deep tissue massage and/or acupuncture from qualified practitioners can make a huge difference with headaches.  Also, as simple as it may seem, drinking plenty of filtered water can assist your body to clear the drug from your system a little better.  So make sure to drink plenty of water (and not tap water!).

Dizziness – As odd as it may seem, meditation can be very helpful with the dizziness associated with Tamoxifen use.  If the dizziness becomes severe, however, seek the advice of your doctor.  You may need to go off the Tamoxifen or reduce your dosage.  As with headaches, drinking more water can often help to ease dizziness.

Nausea – Drink ginger tea.  You make it with organic ginger root (not the dried spice), slice off a small chunk of it and put it in hot (just off boiling) water and let it steep for several minutes.  Sip as needed.

Hot Flashes & Night Sweats – These are more difficult to solve – these symptoms show that the Tamoxifen is doing its work.  You may find that certain herbal remedies like Remifemin assist with the frequency, intensity and duration of hot flashes and night sweats.  Traditional Chinese Medicine has a number of herbs that are helpful, so seek the help of a qualified Chinese medicine doctor.  For a list of other helpful hints, see my article Tips Tricks and Support For Hot Flashes.

Vaginal Dryness – This is one of the most distressing of the side effects and not often discussed.  There is one very safe product I can recommend, a natural lubricant called Sylk.  Highly recommended.  Also organic coconut oil is very useful.

Leg Cramps – Take 500 mg of magnesium citrate twice daily.  Magnesium is also found in plenty of green leafy vegetables, so eat your salad!

Brain Fog – Essential oils are extremely helpful here because they help to clear off the neuron receptor sites of any accumulated gunk (which can result in brain fog).  Deep breathing of oils like basil, peppermint, and frankincense helps to clear your mind, improves memory and brain function.  Meditation is also very helpful.

Pins & Needles in Extremities – Again, I recommend the use of massage therapy and/or acupuncture, drinking plenty of water, and it would also be helpful to do a bowel cleanse and a liver cleanse because Tamoxifen is a toxic drug, and cleansing will help you clear chemical residues which may be building up in the tissues of your body.

Joint Pain – This is one of the more widely experienced side effects of Tamoxifen.  Yoga is helpful, as is massage therapy, and I also recommend a good quality glucosamine sulfate supplement for joint health, together with plenty of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet.

Moodiness, Anxiety, Depression – Sometimes associated with Tamoxifen use, but often these problems arise just from the fact that you are going through cancer.  It’s better not to ignore them and I recommend getting some counseling.  Meditation is extremely helpful for anxiety and moodiness.  For depression related to Tamoxifen, check with your doctor to see if you can reduce your dosage of Tamoxifen.  Some women are taking it every other day, rather than daily, and still getting good results.   Dietary assistance for these problems includes eating lots of fresh organic veggies and fruit, omega 3 fatty acids, and vitamin B complex – all of these are surprisingly beneficial.  One last word about depression – it can come on slowly over a period of several months, and some women will not realize that they are depressed.  Pay close attention to this please and get some help if you need it.  You may want to discontinue the use of Tamoxifen if the symptoms are severe (discuss this with your doctor).  I would not recommend the use of anti-depressants because they may make Tamoxifen less effective.

If you are having problems with any of these side effects (or anything not mentioned above) associated with Tamoxifen and would like more information from me, please feel free to contact me.  I have plenty of information about all of the things I have recommended and would be happy to share it with you.  I also have a more holistic protocol for staying well without the use of hormone blockers, so please contact me if you would like information about that.

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23 thoughts on “Coping With Tamoxifen Side Effects

  1. I would be very grateful for any advice and updates as I have stopped. Taking anastrozole 6mnths ago as the side effects progressed my angina rapidly in 1yr so severely that I could not walk briskly without pain . Before my luptectomy I was a exercise freak and had been for 20 yrs.I was referred. To cadioligist who was considering by pass surgery .I have no pain. Now. And I am back to my exercise. And try to eat more healthier.because I am well again my by. Pass has been put on hold. My oncologist is not happy and her closing remark was oh well its what gets you first the cancer or the heart. Even after my scan was clear in may this year. I. Have. Survived. 2yrs this September and was hoping. You had any survival statistics for similar cases.I had 2cm ,tumour type3 and 1 lymph node removed thank you for caring

    1. Elizabeth,
      Thanks for your message and I can certainly relate to your concern over the anastrozole. I have responded to you with a personal email, so look out for that and please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can assist you.
      Warmest regards,
      Marnie Clark

  2. Dear Marnie Clark it’s very interesting all information you sent. You are talking about tomaxofin what do you think about arimidex. Thank you so much in advance.

    1. Hi Tamara,
      I’m afraid my opinion of Arimidex is about the same as for Tamoxifen. The side effects are similar, and people are having plenty of trouble with Arimidex side effects too. If you would like my help, just let me know.
      Warmest wishes,

  3. Hi,

    Enjoyed reading your helpful information. I’m going through radiation now, will be done in mid to late January then I get a two week break before I start Tamoxifan. My oncologist wants to see me two weeks after starting Tamoxifan. My questions:

    1) Since I have Bipolar disorder, and am already on psycho tropics, will this help or am I going to get more out of balance and need a readustment? (I know you are not a fortune teller, just wondering what the literature says).

    2) What are these alternatives to Tamoxifan that you make reference to?

    3) my psycho tropics already make the weight battle hard, because they make me hungry and slow my metabolism. I do spin class twice a week, and weights once to twice a week. Does Tamoxifan make you hungry or crave things, or is it just that it slows your metabolism?

    Thanks that is about it for now! Appreciate your cheerful support.


  4. Hello Marnie,

    Thanks for your info. I m happy I found it… I m 47 years old, found out about my breast cancer Sept 2014, had a radical mastectomy on one breast. My diagnosis is: Imflamatory ductal carcinoma, stage 2b, grade 2, metastas in 1 lymphatic nod, 7 lymp nods were cut out. ER(+), PR(+), Her-new neg, ki67- 4%.
    I had a 4 month chemotheraphy treatment, 3 FEC and 3 taxotere. Had the last one 17th of March. Feeling free and happy after finishing the chemo. I tried to protect myself as much as I could, taking every day exercise, doing chi gong and meditation. Eating drinking in a healthy way, taking cardius marianus capsuls, reisha mushroom
    (ganoderma lucidum) and so on… Even thinking about tamoxifen treatment, which I need to start in a couple of weeks makes me feel down and unhappy! I would like to know your opinion and if possible, to have more info about what are the risks if I take it or not!!!! Feeling lost …
    Thank you in advance,
    Very best regards,

    1. Hi Natalia,
      I’m glad you reached out to me. I will answer your questions via private email rather than in this public forum – I do have rather a lot to share with you.
      Warmest regards,

  5. Thank you Marnie, I have read most of your writings, and have found some very useful tips – I am due to have radiotherapy and start taking Tamoxifen in the next few weeks so am expecting some side affects. I’m sure I will be returning to your blog for more tips and to remind me of what I have already read x

  6. Hi Marnie ive been on tamoxifen for just over 6yr and have joint and feet pain flushing but I was coping in the last three weeks my ars and hands have been tingly pins and needles really getting me down feel like I’m going crazy can you help thanks margaret

  7. I had a lumpectomy in May,2015. Then did radiation. Then Arimidex for 3 months and about lost my mind. Now on Tamoxifen (2 month). It wasn’t bad in the beginning, but now I cannot sleep and NOTHING helps me sleep. I have bad insomnia, but it is worse now. I have depression also. BUT DIDN’T HAVE JOIN/MUSCLE problems until now. What do you suggest? I’m about ready to throw in the towel, and stop meds for BC, and give it to God. I used to walk 4-5 miles a day; now I’m lucky to walk. EVERYTHING HURTS!!!!!

      1. Diane,
        There are many things you can do to help keep yourself well without the toxicity of this drug. Have you signed up for my free newsletters and e-books? They are full of my best information on healing from breast cancer and avoiding recurrences and I have just updated them with the latest info and research. You can sign up from any page on my site, if you haven’t already done so. Here is my page explaining more:
        I look forward to hearing from you.
        Warmest regards,

  8. Hello ladies
    . Isn’t it enough to go through, to be told “YOU HAVE BREAST CANCER” after I was told that I was rushed into there plan. A double Mesectomy!!! But wait,,, only one breast has cancer so what’s with the double talk?? I’m 44 and was diagnosed with stage 2 er+ breast cancer. I decided to only have a one sided mastectomy. There was no cancer in my nodes. And Thank god my numbers were low enough to skip chemo. I declined radiation. Now I am battling the side affects of Tamoxifen.
    I have tooken it for only 3 months if that and decided to stop taking it last year and My oncologist was not happy and try to put the fear of God inside me by telling me I would die if I did not take Tamoxifen. It’s been over a year and half And I’m still here. I recently started to re take Tamoxifen this pass month and now I remember why I stopped. The side affect in only a few weeks of taking this medication is making my Quality of life very poor. I have severe mindfog, nervousness , anxiety , blurred vision and heat flash. I have not even taking 3 weeks worth of this medication yet I feel like flushing the bottle down the drain. I don’t know weather to just trust God or am I to spend the rest of my
    Life in fear of death by cancer from not taking Tamoxifen. If it’s such a wonder drug then why is it so hard to take.

  9. Hiya Marnie, I’m only coming across your site now, and was wondering if you are still actively responding to Tamoxifen queries?

    I was diagnosed with lobular cancer in 2015, at 45. After a sectional mastectomy I was given radiation for 4 weeks and tamoxifen for 5 years.
    I was on it less than 5 months and I began bleeding (after having an ablation years ago, that had all stopped). They took me off the tamoxifen and gave me a complete hysterectomy. Within the month of my surgery, back on the Tamoxifen. Oh dear…the side effects are brutal. They were tough the first time around, but now they are just awful.

    The hot flashes are unbearable (heightened by surgical menopause), the nausea, and the fuzzy head. It’s as though there is a pressure, and I want to clear my ears…it’s quite intense and disabling when it comes on. Being off of it for the months leading up to my hysterectomy was wonderful! I felt healthy again, had my energy back … and now I’m back to not sleeping, and a poor quality of life. I’m on these tablets until 2020.

    I don’t suffer from depression, but I can certainly empathize with anyone who would due to this medication. Each day we keep going, but we’ve exchanged one battle for another it seems.


    1. Hi Julie,
      Yes I am actively responding to as many comments/messages as I can! I will answer you personally via email just as quickly as I can. Thanks for your patience.
      Warmest regards,

  10. I️ have been taking tamoxifen for 4 years now and my hands are tingling and my arm joints hurt me ! Is that one of side effects of being on that drug?

  11. Am afraid of taking tamoxifen , cos I have little forbids And planning to have children ,am just 40yr and I just had surgery on my breast now 2month

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