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Prophylactic Tamoxifen

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I am considered to be at moderate risk of developing breast cancer due to my family history. After my most recent mammogram, I was told that the NICE guidelines recommend that I take Tamoxifen as a precautionary measure to reduce my risk of developing breast cancer. I'm a 45 year old single mum of 2 children, aged 9 and 10, and am not menopausal yet. After reading the patient decision aid, I'm more confused than before. From what I can understand, taking Tamoxifen will effectively start my menopause and I am highly likely to have the same symptoms of mood swings, hot flushes, memory loss etc plus an increased risk of endometrial cancer. I just don't know if it's worth it! I know no one else can make the decision for me but I'm scared that I'll become a moody mare and emotional wreck just as my kids hormones are kicking in, and I don't know if I'm strong enough to cope with it but anything to reduce my risk of cancer has to be good, right? In addition to this being on my mind, my mum has recently been diagnosed with lung cancer and I'm her main support. I don't know what to do for the best. Any advice or clarification about Tamoxifen would be appreciated x

Linda J - Macmillan

Hello NikiNakiNoo,

Thanks for getting in touch. It’s only natural to worry about taking tamoxifen and finding the decision difficult to make. It’s understandable that your mum’s recent diagnosis has added to your worry.

Although you have been told you are moderate risk this does not mean that you will necessarily develop breast cancer.

Unfortunately, as you say, no-one can make the decision for you. It’s a very personal thing and is based on what you feel is right for you. Your family situation can play a massive part in making this decision, as well as your thoughts on managing possible side effects.

Some women place a strong value on acting now, to reduce their risk of developing cancer in the future. Others place value on their life not being affected at present. These women choose not to take any action unless they are diagnosed. But there are some other ways that you can help to manage your risk.

You can choose to make some life style changes, maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular exercise and not drinking alcohol or reducing alcohol intake. We would encourage you to be breast aware, check your breasts, and to be aware of signs and symptoms of breast cancer.

Breast cancer now offers suggestions on how to do this, which includes information on taking Tamoxifen, extra breast screening, life style changes and touch, look, and check. You may wish to answer the questions and the website will direct you to more information on managing this. This may help you to make your decision.

Alternatively, you may find that writing a list of advantages and disadvantages may help focus your thoughts.

I hope this helps. Please get back in touch if you have any other questions.

Some people find it helpful to talk with one of our nurses directly, if you think this may help you, you can call for free on 0808 808 00 00 Monday to Sunday 8am to 8pm.

Best wishes Linda (Macmillan Information Nurse)