Natasha Tiffany, M.D.: A Brief Overview of Breast Cancer Hormone Therapy Drug Tamoxifen

Natasha Tiffany, M.D., of Hematology Oncology of Salem, LLP, possesses 15 years of post-doctoral training and professional experience. Board-certified in internal medicine, medical oncology, and hematology, Dr. Tiffany became a physician partner at Hematology Oncology of Salem, in Salem, OR, in 2005. She holds a medical degree from Oregon Health & Science University.

Used in breast cancer related hormone therapy for pre- and post-menopausal patients, the anti-estrogen drug tamoxifen works by blocking the estrogen receptors found on breast cancer cells, thus preventing estrogen from binding to the cells and stimulating their growth. Taken daily in tablet or liquid form, tamoxifen decreases the recurrence of early stage breast cancer and treats metastatic breast cancer. Additionally, tamoxifen is effective in reducing the incidence of breast cancer in high-risk patients.

Women and men using tamoxifen may experience common, occasional, and rare side effects. About 10 in every 100 patients on tamoxifen report at least one common side effect, such as hot flushes and sweats, fatigue, and irregular periods. Occasional side effects include vaginal discharge, vaginal dryness, weight gain, headaches, and depression. Lastly, rare adverse effects include skin rashes, uterine cancer, blood clots and stroke. The risk of uterine cancer and stroke are greatest in post-menopausal women. Women taking tamoxifen who have not had a hysterectomy need to report any unusual vaginal bleeding, and require yearly pelvic exams.