Coping 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 can be helpful.
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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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
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.
I am a man and discovered a lump on my chest last summer. Biopsy confirmed cancer about 5 cm, had lumpectomy in December with radiation in February. No BRACA genes or history of cancer in my family. I started Tamoxifen a little over a week ago, started having headaches, now severe, some pins and needles in legs. A few days ago I got a rash on my forehead and my right eyebrow. Now it is agrivating my right eye. I have stopped taking the Tamoxifen. She does not think the rash is related to tamoxifen
I’m so sorry you’re having such a tough time. I assume by “she” you mean your oncologist. I think it more than likely that ALL of the symptoms you are having are related to the Tamoxifen. Did they go away after you stopped taking it? If you need my help with a better plan, I’d be more than happy to assist you.
Hello….. I want to drink arnica tea on low doses of course. Will this affect the tamaxofin?
I absolutely would NOT recommend taking arnica in a tea – this is one herb that is better used externally. Please stop. I’ve emailed this information to you as well.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks for your comment. Be looking for my email responding to your specific questions.
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,
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.
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
Thanks for your comment, and if I can be of further assistance to you, please do not hesitate to contact me.
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
Thanks for contacting me. I have just sent you a private email with some information for you.
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!!!!!
You poor dear. I have just replied to your message via private email.
Feel the same tamoxifen has way to many side effects. So what does one do?
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: https://marnieclark.com/8-reasons-to-subscribe-to-my-newsletters/
I look forward to hearing from you.
. 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.
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.
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.
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?
Sorry for the delayed response. Yes, the things you are encountering are definitely common side effects of Tamoxifen. Should you decide to stop taking it, this article might prove helpful: https://marnieclark.com/natural-remedies-for-tamoxifen-withdrawal-side-effects/
If I can help you, let me know.
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
Do you have a question for me?
I have been on Tamoxifen for 5 months. My side effects were very troubling. I started taking full spectrum CBD oil and now all the side effects are gone. I have my life back. My Oncologist is fully aware I am taking CBD.
Thanks for sharing that with us – that’s excellent news!
Hi my name is Betty and was diagnosed with breast cancer 2010 October ..have been on remission for 9 years and on temaxofine
Thanks for sharing. Great news, glad to read this.
I’m 35 years old and just diagnosed a month ago with ER+ stage 1, grade 2 breast cancer. My oncologist is planning on starting me on tamoxifen but I’m terrified of the side effects. Can you please tell me what natural remedy options you may know of? Thank you
I think you are smart to be concerned. I have just emailed some information to you. Hope it helps you make that hard decision.
The tamoxifen makes me very tired and it makes me cry. Please share any hope you are aware of as I do not wish to be irresponsible at the same time I want to continue a good quality of life.
I am sorry to learn that you are having so much trouble while on Tamoxifen. One lady told me that it made her suicidal, and she had to stop taking it. My best advice for anyone having this kind of problem with Tamoxifen is to start subscribing to my newsletters. Through my newsletters, you’ll learn what supplements can help you to stay well, what lifestyle adjustments really made a difference, and what foods are most protective. You can sign up for them from any page on my website (sometimes the sign-up form is hard to see from a mobile/cell phone). For more info, see this page: https://marnieclark.com/8-reasons-to-subscribe-to-my-newsletters/ I am also available for coaching. I hope this helps you today, and I wish you the best.
is there a link between Tamoxifen and developing Diabetes? I have been on Tamoxifen for 3 years and have have suffered terrible cramp in all limbs, tiredness and joint pain. I am normal weight, do not over indulge in sweet things or carbs, but in the last 2 years my pre-diabetic score has shot up. I feel this is not coincidence, but the medical opinion will not consider a link. Any ideas as to what I can do? I certainly do not think I will go on taking this after 5 years.
Thanks for your message. All of the things you are suffering with can be directly attributable to the Tamoxifen. If you’d like to see a study linking Tamoxifen use with diabetes, here you go: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21935915/ Looks like you’re in the “lucky 10%” group of people who go on to develop diabetes. The good thing is you can stop the Tamoxifen and stop all the heinous side effects. If you’d like to know what to do instead, check out my online program, Toxic Free Me: https://marnieclark.com/how-to-courses-toxic-free-me-course/ If you have any questions, let me know.
I’m 49 years old with regular monthly periods and have been diagnosed couple of months ago with ER+ PR+, HER 2 -; Ki67 5%, stage 1, grade 2 lobular breast cancer, Luminal A. Lumpectomy with two sentinel nodes removed and DIBH radiation for 4 weeks have already been done. No lymph metastasis, only PERINEURAL INVASION. My oncologist is planning on putting me on Tamoxifen 20 mg but I’m terrified of the side effects. Could you please share some natural remedy options, alternative therapies instead of Tamoxifen? What do you think if Tamoxifen is taken every other day instead of every day? Thank you! All the best to you and to your loved ones!
I’ve just sent some information to you – hope it helps!
Wow. I keep thinking that not too many years in the future we’ll look back on these treatments as worse than medieval.
I’ve followed your site fitfully, Marnie, being highly ADD as well as malignant, heh. I’m about to sign on for your non-toxic and meditation courses and hopefully (despite ADD) complete them.
I’m itching to rant but to be brief (for me), my relevant history is:
Nov. 2017 felt “the lump.” Out of nowhere, it seemed, though like others I’d been immersed in a highly stressful environment for a long time. (The cancer was invasive, both ductal and lobular.) July 2018 had a unilateral mastectomy at a university hospital 300+ miles away. They got clean margins, I was told, so I didn’t need chemo or radiation and I declined hormone therapy. (I’m ER+/PR+, HER2 equivocal?) In Dec. 2019 I had a reconstruction (supposed to be DIEP but was a free TRAM; negligible, utterly unsatisfactory after-care; more stress).
From Feb. 2020 till April 2021 I was back home during the pandemic, trapped with a dysfunctional family, helping care for a relative with dementia. The cancer exploded. In utter despair, I was drinking a bottle of red wine a day (yikes!). Gave up wine on Jan. 1, 2021.
I’d complained about a painful “scar” at the edge of my incision to my reconstruction surgeon who continuously brushed it away as being of no interest. “We’ll get to that later,” he’d say. Turns out it’s what exploded during the pandemic. Guess they didn’t get all the margins after all. Note: I was taking lots of high-quality curcumin daily during this time. Turns out curcumin does not trump stress and excessive drinking. 🙁
In April 2021, following vaccination, I returned to the hospital for a checkup. Everyone was hysterical, lots of tests including PET scan. Agreed to go on tamoxifen, asked to delay further surgery meanwhile, and fired my reconstruction surgeon. Refused chemo and aromatase inhibitors because I have a problematic APOE4 gene that could be triggered by them. Started the tamoxifen in May.
Initial side effects: one “warm” flush (I never had hot flushes during menopause, interestingly). Occasional scary gastritis (ouch!). Joint pain in knees, totally new for me. Troubling brain fog. Heightened anger and anxiety. One solid week of crying. Probably other stuff happening beneath the surface?
In Aug. 2021 my body suddenly started crumbling. I aged more than 20 years in less than a month; wrinkles, skin thinning, laxity. Just like the portrait of Dorian Gray. Didn’t recognize myself in the mirror. Hair started falling out by the handful. Frantic, I demanded a dermatologist and they’ll put me on Retin-A. As for the hair they say I might look into getting a wig. Holy crap.
To stave off the likelihood of uterine cancer, I’ve committed to the tamoxifen only till the end of 2022. May switch to raloxifene then if necessary (aiming for it not to be). Meanwhile I’m researching to build a strategy that works with and boosts tamoxifen’s few but critical beneficial effects (I still have a live and visible tumor) but allows me to wean off of it over the next year. It’s why I’m here!
Geez. Happiness is good for the immune system. But what happiness?! Covid and cancer and being alone. Not a fun party. Quite a conundrum.
Thanks so much for sharing that with all of us. Your journey is not dissimilar to many others I’ve spoken to. I’m sending you some information today via email. Sending sympathy and courage!
I have DCIS but am in a surveillance study so no surgery, however I just starting taking low dose 5 g of tamoxifen daily. Have night sweats and disturbed sleep and exhaustion and constipation. Was feeling great when I took my bioidentical hormones prior to the cancer diagnosis but stopped everything.
Will it ever be safe to go on hormones again? My skin is sagging all over and I am losing weight. Help! Thanks so much.
I feel your pain! I assume the Tamoxifen is part of the study, but you know what? It’s your body and you get to say what happens to it. It’s admirable that you offered yourself up to be in a study, but if the side effects of the Tamoxifen are messing with your quality of life, you have every right to drop out of the trial. I have emailed you a bit more information to help you understand exactly what DCIS is and how to effectively manage it. Hope this helps.
This is going to be quite an interesting journey as I already deal with multiple side effects from being struck by lightning on a daily basis, which are also some of the same side effects of the drugs used in suggested treatment plan for my breast cancer. I have provided both oncologists with lightning strike survivors medical data which they agreed will be helpful in treatment going forward.
I do have to say since trying to eat more fruits and vegetables and taking lots of supplements to boost my immunity I have been feeling better. I continue to research as I’m able to learn how to fight the cancer naturally.
Thank you for your willingness to share with us your research. It is greatly appreciated.
Thanks for sharing that. If I can be of support to you, I’d be happy to assist you.