Letrozole is a type of drug known as an aromatase inhibitor. It’s available in the form of a tablet and comes in 2.5 mg strength. It’s a prescription medication also known as Femara. Before the medical care provider prescribes the drug, patients should be informed of the possible Letrozole side effects. Hence, they will be prepared in advance if they experience the side effects and the remedy to take to manage the negative effects if any.
Uses of Letrozole
The drug has been approved to manage breast cancer which depends on estrogen hormone to grow and spread in postmenopausal women; such cancers are known as receptor-positive breast cancer. It is used in the following ways to manage breast cancer:
- To curb advanced cancer from spreading to various body parts
- Taken immediately after surgery to prevent or lower the chances of cancer from re-occurring
- Prescribed to a patient after one has been on Tamoxifen for five years to minimize the risk of cancer from coming back
- To shrink the tumors before surgery or if immediate surgery isn’t suitable
The drug works by preventing or inhibiting the actions of an enzyme known as aromatase enzyme in the body. The aromatase enzyme converts androstenedione and testosterone into estrogen; androstenedione is produced by the ovaries. When the drug is taken, it prevents this conversion, so the actions of aromatase enzyme are blocked; consequently, estrogen production is reduced.
Since most breast cancer is fueled by estrogen hormone, by reducing the levels of estrogen in the body, cancer cells are starved, so their growth is stopped or slowed. It is crucial to note that Letrozole is effective in managing breast cancers which depend on estrogen, sometimes they are referred to as estrogen receptor-positive cancers. The medication is mainly used in postmenopausal women because, in women of childbearing age, estrogen is produced by the ovaries; if women who are in reproductive are given the medicine, it will not prevent the ovaries from secreting estrogen. The drug has off-label uses, for example:
- To induce ovulation- women dealing with infertility caused by ovulation problems and have been unresponsive to Clomid, Letrozole is prescribed. However, one will be faced with its side effects. When estrogen levels are suppressed, the pituitary gland increases the production of FSH (follicle stimulating hormone); FSH triggers the development and growth of ovarian follicles and ovulation, which increases chances of conception. The drug is effective in women with polycystic ovary syndrome
- To treat endometriosis – it’s unclear what causes endometriosis, but many medics link it to high estrogen levels; it growth is fueled by estrogen. Thus, when women with endo are put on Letrozole, estrogen production is decreased and the symptoms of the condition are improved and its progression is slowed or stopped.
- Used by bodybuilders – bodybuilders benefit from the reduction of estrogen when the drug is used. The use of anabolic steroids leads to gynecomastia, fat buildup, as well as water retention. Using this medication mitigates negative effects brought by the anabolic steroids. It’s also used in men who have already developed gynecomastia.
- To restore infertility in obese men – males who are obese and have low testosterone levels may be given a low dose of this medicine to normalize testosterone levels to help them get back their fertility.
A tablet is taken once daily. This drug may be taken for months or years, depending on the disease being treated. Follow the physician direction on the dosage; don’t take an overdose or an under dose. The drug may be taken with or without food but should be swallowed with a fluid like water.
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
- Hot flashes
The above list doesn’t include all the possible medication side effects, if you experience additional negative effects, contact the health practitioner. Most of the common or mild undesired effects clear without medical intervention. As earlier mentioned at the beginning of the article, you should be aware of all the undesired effects so that they don’t get you off guard in case they occur.
Precautions and Warnings
Before the health practitioner prescribes these tablets, inform him of the existing medical conditions or existing allergies, any drugs you are currently taking, if pregnant or breastfeeding and other critical facts concerning your health. Below is important information you should be aware of about Letrozole:
- Blood clots – the drug can lead to an increase in the formation of blood clots in your blood vessels, interfering with blood flow to various organs; in the arms, it’s experienced as swelling, warmth, pain. If occurs in the lungs, one may encounter difficulty breathing, sharp chest pain, or coughing up blood.
- Bone mineral density – using this medication for a longer time can interfere with bone density, hence making one prone to osteoporosis. While on the medication, the physician will request bone mineral density tests frequently. Women are more prone to osteoporosis than men.
- Cholesterol – Letrozole puts one at risk of cholesterol levels, particularly if you have a history of increased cholesterol levels. Thus, if this applies to you, discuss with the health practitioner on how it may affect your health and if you require special monitoring
- Drowsiness – Dizziness and drowsiness are some the drug side effects, if you encounter either or both effects, don’t drive, use machinery or any activities which require alertness.
- Heart disease – the drug increases the chance of getting a heart attack or blood pressure. If you are more prone to high blood pressure or heart disease, inform the doctor as you will be monitored closely if the drug is prescribed. Be vigilant for signs of heart attack like, sudden chest pain which may spread to the arms, sweating, nausea, and anxiety, seek medical intervention right away
- Kidney function – if you have kidney problems, discuss with the medical care provider if you can use the drug, the dosage and how it can affect the medical condition.
- Liver function – if you have reduced liver function or liver disease, discuss with the medical practitioner on the safety of the drug because of the ailment. If it’s prescribed, you will be closely monitored.
- Stroke – the medication can increase the occurrence of stroke or mini-stroke. If you experience, confusion, loss of coordination, vision changes or a sudden headache, contact the physician.