Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Managing Arimidex Side Effects

I met with Dr. Pronovost yesterday and came clean about the fact that I not consistent about taking the medication I am supposed to take for the next three years--Arimidex. She looked me straight in the eye and said: "I know it's tough, but the reason we want you to take it is because if there's any microscopic cancer cells floating around in your system, the Arimidex will devour those cells like a Pac Man." Well that was a powerful visual.

So I trolled through the internet and found this piece from a woman who has been successful managing her side effects.

I have been on Arimidex for 2 1/2 years. I was also worried about side effects. None of the side effects that I have experience have been that serious. Each person is different and you may not have any of the many side effects listed. I have some of the "typical" side effects... ie elevated cholesteral and osteopenia (bone loss). My cholesterol was already slightly elevated before starting the Arimidex so am not sure the Arimidex is to blame. I do take a Statin, and it has been effective in bringing the cholesterol level down. I might mention that I take Co-Q-10, which can help reduce statin side effects. My cholesterol is monitored (Lipid Panel) every 6 months. I also have had some bone loss... now have mild osteopenia (before starting it was normal).

I am trying to do the best I can to prevent further loss (Vitamin D, Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin C, Vitamin B-6 rich foods and supplements) and to avoid taking Fosemax. The more of these vitamins/minerals you can get from foods the better (I try to get 2000 of Calcium, 2000 of Vitamin D, and 750 of Magnesium, and 25 of Vitamin B, but dosage should be worked out with your Doc, in case any reason you should not take these amounts). Again, get as much of these amounts from your diet as possible (I would not take 2000 calcium as supplement... research has shown possible heart side effects. I try to get 1000-1500 from food and supplement to get the rest). There are several diet programs that can help you estimate how much dietary intake you are getting of these, so you can figure out how much you need to supplement.

I've not had any bone/joint pain, fatigue, liver problems. Bone density done every 2 years. Liver enzymes done every 6 months. By the way, I have heard that the bone/joint pain, if it occurs, is soon after you start on the med. Good luck with the Arimidex! In my opinion, it is worth the risk!

My response:

A lot of women take pain relievers like Tylenol,  Aleve or Ibuprofen to combat joint pain. Many doctors advise NOT to take Ibuprofen because it interferes with Arimidex medication. They are told to take a Tylenol once in the morning and once at night or to just take an extra-strength Tylenol at night.  That's supposed to do the trick for joint pain.

They also report that the vitamin supplement glucosamine helps with joint pain. I am currently in a breast cancer survivor study to show how a combination of weight-training exercise twice a week an 30-minute walks five times a week combats the sider effects of estrogen-positive breast cancer drugs. I will be honest. I still wake up creaky after three months in the study. But the exercise helps me sleep better at night.

As a last resort, women report that switching from Arimidex to Femara helps alleviate joint paint. That's the only news I have to report so far.

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