A healthcare provider may prescribe Aromasin to treat breast cancer in postmenopausal women. The medication is specifically designed to treat postmenopausal women who are switching from tamoxifen and have certain types of breast cancer. Aromasin comes in the form of a tablet and is taken once a day. Although most people tolerate the drug well, there are potential side effects, such as hot flashes, nausea, and fatigue.
What Is Aromasin?Aromasin® (exemestane) is a prescription medication used to treat breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Specifically, it has been licensed to treat postmenopausal women who are switching from tamoxifen (Nolvadex®, Soltamox®) and have:
- Early breast cancer that is hormone receptor-positive and have had surgery or radiation
- Advanced breast cancer that has not responded to tamoxifen.
(Click Aromasin Uses for more information on what the drug is used for, including possible off-label uses.)
How Does It Work?Aromasin is part of a group of medications called aromatase inhibitors. Aromatase is an enzyme found in various places in the body. These enzymes help produce estrogens (particularly, a certain estrogen called estradiol). In postmenopausal women, aromatase enzymes make most of the estrogen in the body. By blocking these enzymes, Aromasin helps to decrease the amount of estrogen in the body.
Many breast cancers are sensitive to the estrogen hormone, meaning that the tumor grows with the help of estrogen. When a tumor is sensitive to estrogen, it has receptors on the outer surface of its cells. Estrogen fits into these receptors like a key opening a lock. When this connection is made, the cancer grows. Breast cancers that have estrogen (and/or progesterone) receptors are known as hormone receptor-positive tumors.
By decreasing estrogen production, Aromasin can help decrease the growth of these breast cancers. This type of breast cancer treatment is known as hormonal therapy (see Breast Cancer Hormone Treatment).