Perhaps you are at risk of developing breast cancer as a result of genes or family history or maybe you have it already and have undergone surgery, or chemotherapy and radiation. Whichever the case, the oncologist may prescribe Tamoxifen. For most patients, the priority is to get well and more often they overlook how the treatment may affect them negatively. It’s always advisable to discuss the possible side effect of the medication the physician may put you on. For example, Tamoxifen weight gain is a side effect of the drug.
What is Tamoxifen?
Tamoxifen is a prescription drug licensed to manage breast cancer since its anti-estrogen. Some breast cancer depends on estrogen hormone to grow and spread. It’s crucial to note that the medication is only effective in ER+ breast cancer or estrogen receptor positive. Nonetheless, when given in higher doses than normal, it may kill breast cancer cells that don’t rely on estrogen hormone. The drug is prescribed to individuals who are at risk of getting the disease due to family history or to lower the chance of breast cancer reoccurring after surgery or chemotherapy as earlier mentioned at the start of the article. Additionally, it also used by patients who have experienced secondary breast cancer.
How Does the Drug Work?
The medicine comes in the form of a tablet and a solution. It’s available in 10 mg and 20 mg strength. It works by blocking the effects of estrogen on the receptors; this aids in stopping breast cancer cells from spreading and growing. It also preserves healthy breast cells from growing as well as multiplying, thus, the number of the cells which may turn out to be cancerous are greatly minimized.
The recommend dosage is 20 mg to 40 mg taken once daily as one or divided dose. One can take it with or without food. The period for the dose is five to 10 years on average, though some patients take it for a shorter period. For example, some women may take it for a period of three years and then switch to an aromatase inhibitor. If the physician has prescribed the drug due to the reoccurrence of cancer, one will take the medicine provided it will keep breast cancer under control. Bear in mind the therapy is approved by the FDA to be used by post-menopausal women. However, if the medical care provider prescribes the medication on a woman of childbearing age, the ovaries will continue to produce estrogen, hence a female is given drugs to prevent the ovaries from working.
One of the negative effects as earlier indicated at the start of the article is Tamoxifen weight gain. Your weight may change during breast cancer treatment; the majority of the patients gain extra kilos although some may lose weight. Below is an explanation why you may gain weight while on the drug:
- This hormonal therapy lowers the levels of estrogen and progesterone in females; in men, the amount of testosterone is also reduced. Still, it increases body fat as well; consequently, there is a reduction in muscle mass and metabolic rate – it’s the body rate at which stored energy is converted into working energy. This means that if one continues to consume more calories which are converted and stored as sugars, yet the rate at which the stored energy is used is slow, one will definitely add weight.
- Lack of estrogen may make the body utilize starches and sugars less effectively, thus increasing fat storage making it difficult to lose weight.
- Lack of exercise – while on cancer treatment, it may be difficult for most patients to exercise, especially if one wasn’t used to engaging in physical activity before cancer diagnosis. It’s hard to feel like working out when dealing with other side effects related to the treatment such as fatigue.
- Stress- it’s not easy accepting and dealing with cancer. Stress hormone known as cortisol increases unhealthy food cravings like junk food, making it easier to gain weight and accumulation of belly fat.
Before looking at other side effects apart from weight gain on Tamoxifen, what else may be associated with gaining some excess pounds while on cancer treatment? Explained below are some factors which may make a patient add some kilos:
- Chemotherapy treatment – patients on chemotherapy will experience nausea most of the times, to deal with this, the heath care practitioner may prescribe corticosteroids. They are drugs to relieve nausea, swelling and to stop chemotherapy reactions; they are hormones and may result in an increase in fatty tissue. Furthermore, the medicines make a person lose muscle mass in the arms as well as legs and gain belly fat; this makes it easy to add some extra pounds. Chemo also triggers food cravings for example pasta, bread, rice and mashed potatoes. All these carbs add on the pounds, more so if there is a decrease in physical activity.
- Nausea may be improved by eating – hence, if you experience nausea, to relieve it, one has to eat and the end result is weight gain
Below are other possible side effects a patient may encounter while cancer treatment:
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal bleeding
- Fluid retention
- Abnormal blood clots
- Hair loss
- Leg clamps
- Bone pain
- Inflammation of the pancreas
- Severe skin reactions
In most cases, the side effects clear after the body adjusts to the medicine. If they turn out to be severe, seek medical intervention right away.
Preventing Weight Gain While on the Medication
Being overweight may make you prone to high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. Weight gain makes you prone to other cancers. According to research, excess weight increases the risk of breast cancer reoccurring. Hence, it’s important to come up with, measures to curb adding excess kilos during breast cancer treatment. Such measures include:
- Request the medical care provider to refer you to a dietitian to meet your nutrition needs without necessarily gaining weight
- Try to be active – fatigue may make it difficult to take part in exercises; getting off the couch may be a hard task, much less going outside for a walk; contact a physical therapist to aid you in staying active. Exercise may reduce some unwanted effects like nausea and fatigue
- Eat meals in small portions
- Go for fish, poultry, beans or peas instead of red meat
- Eat whole grain cereals
- Do away with refined carbs such as pastries, candy, sweetened breakfast cereals, and other foods which contain sugar in high amount
- Avoid processed foods and read food labels to know the portion sizes as well as the calories. Bear in mind low-fat or no-fat may not always mean low calories
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Opt for low-fat dairy products
- Avoid or limit intake of sweetened beverages like soft drinks, fruit-flavored drinks, and sports drink
- Engage in activities which may relieve stress
Good nutrition and exercise may be beneficial to improve Tamoxifen weight gain and aid in fighting infections; the body rebuilds tissues quickly. Remember to stay hydrated and to protect the bladder as well as the kidneys.