Tamoxifen side effects...should I take antidepressants?


I'm so glad this community exists, I'm hoping to learn from others as to how you've all coped!

I was diagnosed October the 11th with oestrogen receptive breast cancer... had a lumpectomy on the 21st October ( so lucky it was so quick)...waited 2 weeks on tissue results and they got it all out( woohoo)...then waited another two weeks for where I scored on the genome scale and that came back low.( another woohoo)..then waited again for the radiologist and discovered I needed 15 rounds of radiotherapy ( that was a bit of a shock , though I know its for the best as it's to treat any cells that may remain due to the cancer being right up to the margins!)...started my treatent on the 21st December a day after starting Tamoxifen to block the oestrogen. It's been quite a roller coaster of emotions obn this journey, one I couldn't have done, firstly without the amazing staff I have seen throughout my treatment, and also without my boyfriend by my side and my mum, who have both been amazing!

And so it brings me to questions I have about Tamoxifen...I've just completed day 12 of radiotherapy and saw the nurse today and she confirmed that it does indeed lower mood, I've really gone down and I'm having alot of anixiety. Is anyone else getting anxiety?

The Nurse thinks I should speak to doctor to go on low dose of antidepressant,but it really makes me nervous as its something I've resisted over the last 14 years of dealing with massive life changes and lots of loss and grief impacting my mental health, preferring to talk it out. Currently I'm talking with a Psychologist through the hospital.

I know this current mood is in part very much caused by the Tamoxifen, however I still struggle with fluctuating mental health and I'm also currently dealing with my eldest brother having been diagnosed a few weeks before me with terminal lung cancer. We were estranged for 20 years due to his mental health and mine, but are back in touch which is bitter sweet.

Has anyone else had experiece of having both low mood and anxiety on Tamoxifen and if so what helped? Did taking medication help? What were the pros and cons?

Many thanks to anyone who takes the time to read all this and reply. Hoping someone is willing to share their experience of coping with the side effects of Tamoxifen and what helped.

  • Hi LuckyLocket just replying to get you bumped back up to the top in the hope that you get relevant replies, love from Ann

  • I was quite low with anxiety for a spell and one of the things I realised (other than the fact that everything was catching up on me - cancer, chemo, surgery, rads, sudden menopause...!) is that I had stopped taking my 5-HTP supplement for a couple of weeks. I resumed taking it, felt a bit better and then thought that now I'm in menopause, I should increase intake, so I take 400mg/day at night. It has made a big difference to me. It works on serotonin levels which are good for your mood, as well as helping you sleep. 

    Don't take anything without speaking to your oncologist/doctor etc but they help me.

  • Thanks so much Ann, so kind of you !

  • Hi Beatthebreast,

    Thank you for sharing what helped you. That’s really good to know about the 5HTP helping, I’ve heard of that before but never taken it! 

    And yes, like you, it’s hard to know what’s causing which symptom at the moment. It’s such a long journey with so many stressful waiting periods and menopausal symptoms to contend with at the same time, that it’s no wonder we’ve hit a wall of low mood and anxiety!

    Glad you’re feeling so much better. : ) 

  • I too have resisted. I spent best part of 10 yrs on anti depressants and weaned myself off them about 6 years ago. My anxiety has increased and I seem to worry more especially about silly things, my brain doing all the overthinking. I too am just coming to terms with the roller-coaster of last year - click my name to read my tale.when I rang my gp for help with poor sleeping, I got a lovely locum who asked me how I was doing. I also have issues swallowing tablets.  Never been a huge pill taker and don't really want more. Also I can't go back on the one i had as it reacts with tamoxifen. Also have family issues coping with a parent with Alzheimer's although not on my own. Partner is supportive and has helped a lot but also found this forum a big help. It is your decision but for me, I'm just plodding on taking each day as it comes. I will think about it again though. Good luck x

  • I was quite surprised at my low mood - I had been so positive and upbeat throughout diagnosis and treatment - obviously the odd meltdown/tearful/panicky moment aside!

    What surprised me was how far after my main treatment my low mood hit, and how I couldn't easily pull myself out of it. I never usually suffer much from a low mood and certainly not for days/weeks at a time.

    I wondered whether I had felt a kind of euphoria after finishing main treatment being discharged by oncology, getting good pathology results and then it was Spring/Summer time, my energy levels were up. The as we progressed into Autumn, my mood slipped.

    Looking back, I think  needed that quiet, low mood time for reflection. I think I am getting better at allowing myself those low moments, that I don't need to be happy all the time. Something enormous and life-changing has happened to me. I will never be the same again - that isn't necessarily bad, but you have to give yourself time to think about what you have lost as well as gained. I have certainly become a bit more Zen with every day worries, and that really is a good thing. But coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis (the crashing vulnerability you feel, that will now always be in the background), and a new body - breasts are different, menopause has caused other body and mood issues. 

    It is a lot to take in.

    Pleased to say I came out of the dull mood and feeling much better but I do think it taught me not to be so hard on myself.

    Some really great advice I got on here was to remember that I am still in active treatment - I am having zoledronic acid every 6 months, and I have zoladex injections every month and exemestane every day. These drugs all take their toll too. I was being too hard on myself thinking I should be bouncing back to my old self and energy levels after chemo. But these drugs all affect energy, mood etc. So I now think of myself as still in active treatment for breast cancer and that has allowed me to be kinder to myself.

  • Hi TiredMinion,

    Im sorry to hear about everything you’ve been through with your cancer treatment. Sounds like it could have been made a bit easier for you with a more sympathetic registrar.

    it sounds like you’re dealing with so much, what with your parents and alzheiners as well. My boyfriends mum has Alzheimer’s and we’ve been on quite a journey with that prior to cancer. I’m glad you have the support of your partner, it’s so important at the moment to let others look after us.

    Good to hear you have chosen not to take antidepressants and are managing to get through, with the day at a time approach! 

    The specialist nurse I saw on Friday did say the symptoms may settle after 3 months, so maybe I will try and see how I am after that, if I make it to that point without a full on melt down.

    How long have you been on the Tamoxifen?

    Good luck to you too!

  • Hi Beatthebreast,

    I think that’s some very good advise about being kinder to yourself, as you are still in treatment and dealing with so much.

    I can totally relate to finding that hard though and thinking we should just bounce back. You’re right though, it’s a huge shock to be diagnosed and whilst wonderful that we’ve accessed treatment so fast , it can feel overwhelming as there’s alot to take in. 

    Every time I think I’ve gotten through one hurdle, there’s another that they tell you about just before the end. Like Friday and being told the skin on my breast would get worse for weeks after. I have 2 more sessions next week but feel like that feeling of the end being in sight, keeps getting moved! 

    So thank you, I will try and remind myself I’m still in treatment , as I’m still dealing with the side effects of radiotherapy and tamoxifen and trying to adjust. Like you say, it’s totally understandable to feel low and to need that time to take stock. Christmas Eve was when it all hit me, I think not having the distraction of the run up to Christmas and present buying online, meant it all just hit me full on!

    Thank you for sharing, I will try not to sweat the small stuff and be kinder to myself.I hope you will continue to do the same

    All the best to you ! 

  • I've been on tamoxifen since July last year so 5 months. Side effects have got less. Struggled with hot flushes and poor sleep. I've also treated myself to acupuncture which has helped a lot. Your body gets used to the drug but it does depend a lot on brand. Have you seen the thread called Oestrogen reducing medications? It may have slipped off front page but search for it or go a few pages in. Good hints and tips in it.

    The main thing is that you do what you feel is right for you. Most drugs are not addictive but you need to take it for long enough for it to work. I do find winter a struggle. It's been very cold but it's a little warmer although wetter now. Try and get out for some gentle walks in the daytime. I'm trying but working from home and trying to get motivated back into work is hard going x

  • Ooh I will go and look for that link , thank you ! Do you mean which brand of Tamoxifen?

    That's good to hear your side effects have got less after 5 months, gives me hope.Walks is a good idea, I've been struggling to get out for walks though,having the radiotherapy in the depths of winter and post christmas hasn't helped nor has the anxiety. I've bought an exercise bike, only used it a few times as the lethargy kicked in with the radiotherapy.

    If you dont mind my asking...How often are you going for accupuncture and what do you feel it's helped with the most?