What is Aromasin®?

Debra Durkee

Aromasin® is a medication used to treat the different stages of breast cancer. Also known by the generic name exemestane, the drug is given after a long treatment with another medication called tamoxifen. As the medication interferes with the production of estrogen, women who have already gone through the stages of menopause are often candidates for this treatment. The drug has been prescribed for those in varying stages of the disease, from early to advanced cases.

Hot flashes may be a side effect of Aromasin.
Hot flashes may be a side effect of Aromasin.

The medication is known as an aromatase inhibitor. It acts by slowing the amount of estrogen produced in the body, which in turn can slow the growth of some of the tumors that develop in cases of breast cancer. These tumors need a steady supply of estrogen in order to grow, and depriving them of this can slow the development of the cancer.

Women who have already gone through the stages of menopause are candidates for treatment using Aromasin.
Women who have already gone through the stages of menopause are candidates for treatment using Aromasin.

Often offered along with tamoxifen, Aromasin® works differently than its partner medication. Whereas tamoxifen blocks estrogen from being drawn into the developing cancer cells, Aromasin® works by lowering the amount of estrogen available to the cells. It is common for women to be on tamoxifen for between two and three years, and then to stop taking that drug and continue their treatment with Aromasin®. This prescription is often for several years as well.

Usually taken once a day, Aromasin® comes in tablet form. Other drugs both prescription and herbal can interact with this medication, and it is vitally important that a medical professional be able to make a diagnosis and prescription plan with all the relevant information. Typically, an individual's diet can remain the same while on the medication, as food has not been found to interfere with the drug's ability to slow the production of estrogen in the body.

Some side effects are mild and disappear once the body adjusts to the medication; these can include headaches, nervousness, insomnia, fatigue, or depression. Many experience hot flashes similar to those suffered through menopause. If these do not disappear, they should be reported to a medical professional. Also possible are occurrences of chest pain and difficulty breathing, which can be signs of a severe reaction. Taking the drug can also increase an individual's chance of developing osteoporosis; even if this does not occur, bones may be more susceptible to breaking while the person is taking Aromasin®.

Aromasin® can be dangerous when taken by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. As it interferes with the production of estrogen, it has generally only been used in those women who have progressed past child-bearing age and through menopause. Prescribing health professionals may require individuals to take pregnancy tests to confirm they are not pregnant before starting the drug.

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