Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Hormone therapy (Tamoxifen)

I promised another post on hormone therapy.

Perhaps one of the most shocking outcomes of yesterday's results session, is that I'm almost certainly going to be advised to take a pill every day for the next ten years.  Ten years!  So forget 'getting through this and going on as if it never happened by Christmas'.
And yet I'm also told that this is a good thing because, luckily, my Cancer has hormone receptors. 
The doctor explained it like this.  Imagine the hormone receptor is an antenna on the Cancer cells.  Normally, oestrogen attaches to this antenna and tells the Cancer cell to divide and so the Cancer spreads.  But hormone therapy, in the form of Tamoxifen, mimics oestrogen and attaches even more easily to this antenna.  Then, instead of telling the cell to divide, it blocks the oestrogen and clings on until the cell eventually dies.

So they recommend taking Tamoxifen for a minimum of five years to prevent the Cancer coming back.  That's all that will be reimbursed under the Belgian medical system, but trials have shown that taking it for ten years increases its effectiveness still further.  It doesn't cost a fortune, so it makes sense to pay to keep going for the full ten years.

Of course, there's a downside to all this jolly good news.  Tamoxifen does not have as many side effects as chemo, a quick Google search tells me.  Thank goodness for that!  But common side effects include hot flashes and night sweats.  So it's a bit like menopause at age 43.  Great.  Less common side effects include blood clots, cancer of the uterus, cataracts and stroke.  Oh, what fun!

I'm not going to worry about this yet.  It's far down the road ahead.  But I'm beginning to realise that this journey is going to be a long one.

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