Recently, I started on the prescription drug Arimidex or Anastrozole. I will receive this drug for 5 years or if the ongoing clinical trials show additional benefit, perhaps more according to my Oncologist. Arimidex is from a family of drugs called Aromatase Inhibitors as are the drugs Aromasin and Femara. These drugs are given only to post-menopausal women. Pre-menopausal women and some post-menopausal women are given Tamoxifen.
Wikipedia describes it like this: Aromatase is the enzyme which synthesizes estrogen. As breast cancers require estrogen to grow, Aromatase Inhibitors are taken to either block the production of estrogen or block the action of estrogen on receptors.
So this drug is to help stop new tumors. Certainly, reason enough to take it.
Since I was on the edge of menopause when I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer, my medical oncologist did a series of blood tests to make sure that Chemotherapy finished off the job. The blood tests showed that I was indeed in menopause. Apparently, determining if a woman is in menopause is a challenge. But I was able to receive Arimidex. However, I have to have an Estrodiol blood test every two weeks for an indefinite time period to make sure I remain menopausal.
Arimidex has a list of possible side effects a mile long. One major side effect can be bone loss.I had a baseline DEXA scan to determine my bone density and make sure I do not have Osteoporosis or Osteopenia. The DEXA scan was the easiest medical test I have ever had. All women over age 60 should have one or younger if your doctor recommends. You lie on a table, an arm goes over you, and the technician takes pictures of your bones. My test took less than 5 minutes! I was shocked. Normally, I get into those other scans and they last for an hour or more. I could not contain my joy! My technician had mercy on me. She said I had been through enough medical tests during the past year, and she didn’t want to make me wait for results. She said my bones were very dense, and better than most women my age. This was great news because Chemotherapy can cause bone loss. And having strong bones can help prevent cancer metastases to my bones.
One other common side effect that I am trying to ignore is bone and joint pain. I still had a lot of residual bone and joint pain left from Chemotherapy. I feel 90 years old when I stand up and have difficulty walking for awhile. But I am learning if I act like my cat, stretch before I walk, it is less painful. It does get better with movement. It is just one more thing I have to learn to deal with, so I will.
Arimidex and other Armatase Inhibitor drugs are more fully explained here:
Tamoxifen is more fully explained here:
I will write more about Tamoxifen on another post.