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In general, the side effects of tamoxifen are similar to some of the symptoms of menopause. The most common side effects are hot flashes, vaginal discharge, and nausea. As is the case with menopause, not all women who take tamoxifen have these symptoms. Most of these side effects do not require medical attention.
Doctors carefully monitor women taking tamoxifen for signs of more serious side effects. Women taking tamoxifen, particularly those who are receiving chemotherapy along with tamoxifen, have a greater risk of developing a blood clot. The risk of having a blood clot due to tamoxifen is similar to the risk of a blood clot when taking estrogen replacement therapy. Women taking tamoxifen also have an increased risk of stroke.
Among women who have not had a hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus), the risk of developing endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus) and uterine sarcoma (cancer of the muscular wall of the uterus) is increased in those taking tamoxifen. Women who take tamoxifen should talk with their doctor about having regular pelvic exams, and should be examined promptly if they have pelvic pain or any abnormal vaginal bleeding.
Careful studies have shown that the risks of adjuvant therapy for breast cancer are outweighed by the benefit of the treatment -- increasing the chance of survival. Still, it is important for women to share any concerns they may have about their treatment or side effects with their doctor or other healthcare provider.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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