Does Femara (letrozole) cause side effects?
The growth of some breast cancers in postmenopausal women is promoted by estrogens that circulate in the blood, and the adrenal glands are the main source of these circulating estrogens. Femara inhibits the enzyme in the adrenal glands (aromatase) that produces the estrogens, estradiol and estrone.
Common side effects of Femara include
Serious side effects of Femara include
- increased cholesterol levels, and
- decreased bone mineral density, which increases the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
Drug interactions of Femara include tamoxifen, which reduces blood levels of Femara when both drugs are administered together. However, in clinical studies the benefit of Femara was not reduced when administered immediately after tamoxifen.
Femara is an anti-estrogen drug. Therefore, estrogen containing products counteract the effect of Femara.
What are the important side effects of Femara (letrozole)?
The most common side effects with letrozole are:
Cholesterol levels may increase during letrozole therapy. Cholesterol levels should be monitored and some patients may require treatment for high cholesterol levels. Letrozole decreases bone mineral density, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures.
Femara (letrozole) side effects list for healthcare professionals
The following adverse reactions are discussed in greater detail in other sections of the labeling.
Clinical Trials Experience
Because clinical trials are conducted under widely varying conditions, adverse reactions rates observed in the clinical trials of a drug cannot be directly compared to rates in the clinical trials of another drug and may not reflect the rates observed in practice.
Adjuvant Treatment Of Early Breast Cancer
- In study, BIG 1-98, the median treatment duration of adjuvant treatment was 60 months and the median duration of follow-up for safety was 96 months for patients receiving Femara and tamoxifen.
- Certain adverse reactions were prospectively specified for analysis (see Table 1), based on the known pharmacologic properties and side effect profiles of the two drugs.
- Adverse reactions were analyzed irrespective of whether a symptom was present or absent at baseline.
- Most adverse reactions reported (approximately 75% of patients who reported AEs) were
- Grade 1 or Grade 2 applying the Common Toxicity Criteria (CTC) Version 2.0/Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events (CTCAE),
- Version 3.0. Table 1 describes adverse reactions (Grades 1-4 and Grades 3-4) irrespective of relationship to study treatment in the adjuvant trial for the monotherapy arms analysis (safety population).
Table 1: Patients with Adverse Reactions (CTC Grades 1-4,) in the Adjuvant Study – Monotherapy Arms Analysis (Median Follow-up 96 Months; Median Treatment 60 Months)
|Adverse Reactions||Grades 1-4||Grades 3-4|
N = 2448
N = 2447
N = 2448
N = 2447
|Patients with any adverse reaction||2309||(94.3)||2212||(90.4)||636||(26.0)||606||(24.8)|
|Fatigue (lethargy, malaise, asthenia)*||235||(9.6)||250||(10.2)||6||(0.2)||7||(0.3)|
|Vaginal bleeding*||129||(5.3)||320||(13.1)||1||(< 0.1)||8||(0.3)|
|Vaginal irritation*||112||(4.6)||77||(3.1)||2||(< 0.1)||2||(< 0.1)|
|Pain in extremity||103||(4.2)||79||(3.2)||6||(0.2)||4||(0.2)|
|Breast pain*||37||(1.5)||43||(1.8)||1||(< 0.1)||-||-|
|Anorexia*||20||(0.8)||20||(0.8)||1||(< 0.1)||1||(< 0.1)|
|Endometrial proliferation disorders*||14||(0.6)||86||(3.5)||0||-||14||(0.6)|
|Other endometrial disorders*||2||(< 0.1)||3||(0.1)||0||-||0||-|
|Angina requiring surgery**1||35||(1.4)||33||(1.3)||-||-||-||-|
|Angina requiring surgery**2||25||(1.0)||25||(1.0)||-||-||-||-|
|Second primary malignancy1||129||(5.3)||150||(6.1)||-||-||-||-|
|Second primary malignancy2||54||(2.2)||79||(3.2)||-||-||-||-|
|* Target events pre-specified for analysis|
** Events pre-printed on CRF
|1At median follow-up of 96 months (i.e. any time after randomization) for Femara (range up to 144 months) and 95 months for tamoxifen (range up to 143 months )|
2At median treatment duration of 60 months (i.e. during treatment + 30 days after discontinuation of treatment) for Femara and tamoxifen (range up to 68 months)
3Excluding women who had undergone hysterectomy before study entry
TIA = Transient ischemic attack
Note: Cardiovascular events (including cerebrovascular and thromboembolic events), skeletal and urogenital/endometrial events and second primary malignancies were collected life -long. All of these events were assumed to be of CTC Grade 3 to 5 and were not individually graded
- When considering all grades during study treatment, a higher incidence of events was seen for Femara regarding
- fractures (10.1% vs 7.1%),
- myocardial infarctions (1.0% vs 0.5%), and
- arthralgia (25.2% vs 20.4%) (Femara vs tamoxifen respectively).
- A higher incidence was seen for tamoxifen regarding thromboembolic events (2.1% vs 3.6%), endometrial hyperplasia/cancer (0.3% vs 2.9%), and endometrial proliferation disorders (0.3% vs 1.8%) (Femara vs tamoxifen respectively).
- At a median follow-up of 96 months, a higher incidence of events was seen for Femara (14.7%) than for tamoxifen (11.4%) regarding fractures.
- A higher incidence was seen for tamoxifen compared to Femara regarding
- thromboembolic events (4.6% vs 3.2%), and
- endometrial hyperplasia or cancer (2.9% vs 0.4%) (tamoxifen vs Femara, respectively).
- Results of a safety trial in 263 postmenopausal women with resected receptor positive early breast cancer in the adjuvant setting comparing the effect on lumbar spine (L2-L4) BMD of adjuvant treatment with letrozole to that with tamoxifen showed at 24 months a median decrease in lumbar spine BMD of 4.1% in the letrozole arm compared to a median increase of 0.3% in the tamoxifen arm (difference = 4.4%) (P < 0.0001).
- No patients with a normal BMD at baseline became osteoporotic over the 2 years and only 1 patient with osteopenia at baseline (T score of -1.9) developed osteoporosis during the treatment period (assessment by central review).
- The results for total hip BMD were similar, although the differences between the two treatments were less pronounced.
- During the 2 year period, fractures were reported by 4 of 103 patients (4%) in the letrozole arm, and 6 of 97 patients (6%) in the tamoxifen arm.
In a safety trial in 263 postmenopausal women with resected receptor positive early breast cancer at 24 months comparing the effects on lipid profiles of adjuvant letrozole to tamoxifen, 12% of patients on letrozole had at least one total cholesterol value of a higher CTCAE grade than at baseline compared with 4% of patients on tamoxifen.
In another postapproval randomized, multicenter, open label, study of letrozole vs anastrozole in the adjuvant treatment of postmenopausal women with hormone receptor and node positive breast cancer (FACE, NCT00248170), the median duration of treatment was 60 months for both treatment arms. Table 2 describes adverse reactions (Grades 1-4 and Grades 3-4) irrespective of relationship to study treatment in the adjuvant study (safety population).
Table 2: Adverse Reactions (CTC Grades 1-4), Occurring in at least 5% of Patients in Either Treatment Arm, by Preferred Term (Safety set)
N = 2049
N = 2062
|Patients with at least one AR||628 (30.6)||2049 (100.0)||591 (28.7)||2062 (100.0)|
|Arthralgia||80 (3.9)||987 (48.2)||69 (3.3)||987 (47.9)|
|Hot flush||17 (0.8)||666 (32.5)||9 (0.4)||666 (32.3)|
|Fatigue||8 (0.4)||345 (16.8)||10 (0.5)||343 (16.6)|
|Osteoporosis||5 (0.2)||223 (10.9)||11 (0.5)||225 (10.9)|
|Myalgia||16 (0.8)||233 (11.4)||15 (0.7)||212 (10.3)|
|Back pain||11 (0.5)||212 (10.3)||17 (0.8)||193 (9.4)|
|Osteopenia||4 (0.2)||203 (9.9)||1 (0.0)||173 (8.4)|
|Pain in extremity||9 (0.4)||168 (8.2)||3 (0.1)||174 (8.4)|
|Lymphoedema||5 (0.2)||159 (7.8)||2 (0.1)||179 (8.7)|
|Insomnia||7 (0.3)||160 (7.8)||3 (0.1)||149 (7.2)|
|Hypercholesterolaemia||2 (0.1)||155 (7.6)||1 (0.0)||151 (7.3)|
|Hypertension||25 (1.2)||156 (7.6)||20 (1.0)||149 (7.2)|
|Depression||16 (0.8)||147 (7.2)||13 (0.6)||137 (6.6)|
|Bone pain||10 (0.5)||138 (6.7)||9 (0.4)||122 (5.9)|
|Nausea||6 (0.3)||137 (6.7)||5 (0.2)||152 (7.4)|
|Headache||3 (0.1)||130 (6.3)||5 (0.2)||168 (8.1)|
|Alopecia||2 (0.1)||127 (6.2)||0 (0.0)||134 (6.5)|
|Musculoskeletal pain||6 (0.3)||123 (6.0)||9 (0.4)||147 (7.1)|
|Radiation skin injury||11 (0.5)||120 (5.9)||6 (0.3)||88 (4.3)|
|Dyspnoea||16 (0.8)||118 (5.8)||10 (0.5)||96 (4.7)|
|Cough||1 (0.0)||106 (5.2)||1 (0.0)||120 (5.8)|
|Musculoskeletal stiffness||2 (0.1)||102 (5.0)||2 (0.1)||84 (4.1)|
|Dizziness||2 (0.2)||94 (4.6)||7 (0.3)||109 (5.3)|
The following adverse reactions were also identified in less than 5% of the 2049 patients treated with letrozole and not included in the table:
Extended Adjuvant Treatment Of Early Breast Cancer, Median Treatment Duration Of 24 Months
In study MA-17, the median duration of extended adjuvant treatment was 24 months and the median duration of follow-up for safety was 28 months for patients receiving Femara and placebo.
Table 3 describes the adverse reactions occurring at a frequency of at least 5% in any treatment group during treatment. Most adverse reactions reported were Grade 1 and Grade 2 based on the CTC Version 2.0.
In the extended adjuvant setting, the reported drug-related adverse reactions that were significantly different from placebo were
Table 3: Adverse Reactions Occurring in at least 5% of Patients in either Treatment Arm
|Number (%) of Patients with Grade 1-4|
|Number (%) of Patients with Grade 3-4|
N = 2563
N = 2573
N = 2563
N = 2573
|Any Adverse Reactions||2232 (87.1)||2174 (84.5)||419 (16.3)||389 (15.1)|
|Vascular Disorders||1375 (53.6)||1230 (47.8)||59 (2.3)||74 (2.9)|
|Flushing||1273 (49.7)||1114 (43.3)||3 (0.1)||0|
|General Disorders||1154 (45)||1090 (42.4)||30 (1.2)||28 (1.1)|
|Asthenia||862 (33.6)||826 (32.1)||16 (0.6)||7 (0.3)|
|Edema NOS||471 (18.4)||416 (16.2)||4 (0.2)||3 (0.1)|
|Musculoskeletal Disorders||978 (38.2)||836 (32.5)||71 (2.8)||50 (1.9)|
|Arthralgia||565 (22)||465 (18.1)||25 (1)||20 (0.8)|
|Arthritis NOS||173 (6.7)||124 (4.8)||10 (0.4)||5 (0.2)|
|Myalgia||171 (6.7)||122 (4.7)||8 (0.3)||6 (0.2)|
|Back Pain||129 (5)||112 (4.4)||8 (0.3)||7 (0.3)|
|Nervous System Disorders||863 (33.7)||819 (31.8)||65 (2.5)||58 (2.3)|
|Headache||516 (20.1)||508 (19.7)||18 (0.7)||17 (0.7)|
|Dizziness||363 (14.2)||342 (13.3)||9 (0.4)||6 (0.2)|
|Skin Disorders||830 (32.4)||787 (30.6)||17 (0.7)||16 (0.6)|
|Sweating Increased||619 (24.2)||577 (22.4)||1 (< 0.1)||0|
|Gastrointestinal Disorders||725 (28.3)||731 (28.4)||43 (1.7)||42 (1.6)|
|Constipation||290 (11.3)||304 (11.8)||6 (0.2)||2 (< 0.1)|
|Nausea||221 (8.6)||212 (8.2)||3 (0.1)||10 (0.4)|
|Diarrhea NOS||128 (5)||143 (5.6)||12 (0.5)||8 (0.3)|
|Metabolic Disorders||551 (21.5)||537 (20.9)||24 (0.9)||32 (1.2)|
|Hypercholesterolemia||401 (15.6)||398 (15.5)||2 (< 0.1)||5 (0.2)|
|Reproductive Disorders||303 (11.8)||357 (13.9)||9 (0.4)||8 (0.3)|
|Vaginal Hemorrhage||123 (4.8)||171 (6.6)||2 (< 0.1)||5 (0.2)|
|Vulvovaginal Dryness||137 (5.3)||127 (4.9)||0||0|
|Psychiatric Disorders||320 (12.5)||276 (10.7)||21 (0.8)||16 (0.6)|
|Insomnia||149 (5.8)||120 (4.7)||2 (< 0.1)||2 (< 0.1)|
|Respiratory Disorders||279 (10.9)||260 (10.1)||30 (1.2)||28 (1.1)|
|Dyspnea||140 (5.5)||137 (5.3)||21 (0.8)||18 (0.7)|
|Investigations||184 (7.2)||147 (5.7)||13 (0.5)||13 (0.5)|
|Infections and Infestations||166 (6.5)||163 (6.3)||40 (1.6)||33 (1.3)|
|Renal Disorders||130 (5.1)||100 (3.9)||12 (0.5)||6 (0.2)|
Based on a median follow-up of patients for 28 months,the incidence of clinical fractures from the core randomized study in patients who received Femara was 5.9% (152) and placebo was 5.5% (142).
The incidence of self-reported osteoporosis was higher in patients who received Femara 6.9% (176) than in patients who received placebo 5.5% (141). Bisphosphonates were administered to 21.1% of the patients who received Femara and 18.7% of the patients who received placebo.
The incidence of cardiovascular ischemic events from the core randomized study was comparable between patients who received Femara 6.8% (175) and placebo 6.5% (167).
A patient-reported measure that captures treatment impact on important symptoms associated with estrogen deficiency demonstrated a difference in favor of placebo for vasomotor and sexual symptom domains.
Bone Substudy: See prescribing information.
Lipid Substudy: In the extended adjuvant setting, based on a median duration of follow-up of 62 months, there was no significant difference between Femara and placebo in total cholesterol or in any lipid fraction at any time over 5 years. Use of lipid lowering drugs or dietary management of elevated lipids was allowed.
Updated Analysis, Extended Adjuvant Treatment Of Early Breast Cancer, Median Treatment Duration Of 60 Months
- The extended adjuvant treatment trial (MA-17) was unblinded early. At the updated (final analysis), overall the side effects seen were consistent to those seen at a median treatment duration of 24 months.
- During treatment or within 30 days of stopping treatment (median duration of treatment 60 months) a higher rate of fractures was observed for Femara (10.4%) compared to placebo (5.8%), as also a higher rate of osteoporosis (Femara 12.2% vs placebo 6.4%).
- Based on 62 months median duration of follow-up in the randomized letrozole arm in the safety population the incidence of new fractures at any time after randomization was 13.3% for letrozole and 7.8% for placebo. The incidence of new osteoporosis was 14.5% for letrozole and 7.8% for placebo.
- During treatment or within 30 days of stopping treatment (median duration of treatment 60 months), the incidence of cardiovascular events was 9.8% for Femara and 7.0% for placebo.
- Based on 62 months median duration of follow-up in the randomized letrozole arm in the safety population the incidence of cardiovascular disease at any time after randomization was 14.4% for letrozole and 9.8% for placebo.
- In the extended adjuvant setting (MA-17), based on a median duration of follow-up of 62 months, there was no significant difference between Femara and placebo in total cholesterol or in any lipid fraction over 5 years. Use of lipid lowering drugs or dietary management of elevated lipids was allowed.
First-Line Treatment Of Advanced Breast Cancer
In study P025 a total of 455 patients were treated for a median time of exposure of 11 months in the Femara arm (median 6 months in the tamoxifen arm). The incidence of adverse reactions was similar for Femara and tamoxifen.
The most frequently reported adverse reactions were bone pain, hot flushes, back pain, nausea, arthralgia and dyspnea. Discontinuations for adverse reactions other than progression of tumor occurred in 10/455 (2%) of patients on Femara and in 15/455 (3%) of patients on tamoxifen.
Adverse reactions that were reported in at least 5% of the patients treated with Femara 2.5 mg or tamoxifen 20 mg in the first-line treatment study are shown in Table 4.
Table 4: Adverse Reactions Occurring in at least 5% of Patients in either Treatment Arm
(N = 455)
(N = 455)
|Urinary Tract Infection NOS||6||3|
|Injury, Poisoning and Procedural Complications|
|Metabolism and Nutrition Disorders|
|Musculoskeletal and Connective Tissue Disorders|
|Pain in Limb||10||8|
|Nervous System Disorders|
|Reproductive System and Breast Disorders|
|Respiratory, Thoracic and Mediastinal Disorders|
|Chest Wall Pain||6||6|
- Other less frequent (less than or equal to 2%) adverse reactions considered consequential for both treatment groups, included peripheral thromboembolic events, cardiovascular events, and cerebrovascular events.
- Peripheral thromboembolic events included
- Cardiovascular events included
- Cerebrovascular events included
- transient ischemic attacks,
- thrombotic or hemorrhagic strokes and
- development of hemiparesis.
Second-Line Treatment Of Advanced Breast Cancer
- Study discontinuations in the megestrol acetate comparison study (AR/BC2) for adverse reactions other than progression of tumor were 5/188 (2.7%) on Femara 0.5 mg, in 4/174 (2.3%) on Femara 2.5 mg, and in 15/190 (7.9%) on megestrol acetate.
- There were fewer thromboembolic events at both Femara doses than on the megestrol acetate arm (0.6% vs 4.7%).
- There was also less vaginal bleeding (0.3% vs 3.2%) on Femara than on megestrol acetate.
- In the aminoglutethimide comparison study (AR/BC3), discontinuations for reasons other than progression occurred in 6/193 (3.1%) on 0.5 mg Femara, 7/185 (3.8%) on 2.5 mg Femara, and 7/178 (3.9%) of patients on aminoglutethimide.
- Comparisons of the incidence of adverse reactions revealed no significant differences between the high and low dose Femara groups in either study.
- Most of the adverse reactions observed in all treatment groups were mild to moderate in severity and it was generally not possible to distinguish adverse reactions due to treatment from the consequences of the patient’s metastatic breast cancer, the effects of estrogen deprivation, or intercurrent illness.
- Adverse reactions that were reported in at least 5% of the patients treated with Femara 0.5 mg, Femara 2.5 mg, megestrol acetate, or aminoglutethimide in the two controlled trials AR/BC2 and AR/BC3 are shown in Table 5.
Table 5: Adverse Reactions Occurring at a Frequency of at Least 5% of Patients in Either Treatment Arm
(N = 359)
(N = 380)
(N = 189)
(N = 178)
|Body as a Whole|
|Skin and Appendages|
|1Includes peripheral edema, leg edema, dependent edema, edema|
2Includes musculoskeletal pain, skeletal pain, back pain, arm pain, leg pain
3Includes rash, erythematous rash, maculopapular rash, psoriasiform rash, vesicular rash
- Other less frequent (less than 5%) adverse reactions considered consequential and reported in at least 3 patients treated with Femara, included
First And Second-Line Treatment Of Advanced Breast Cancer
In the combined analysis of the first- and second-line metastatic trials and postmarketing experiences other adverse reactions that were reported were
- eye irritation,
- cardiac failure,
- dysesthesia (including hypesthesia/paresthesia),
- arterial thrombosis,
- memory impairment,
- increased urinary frequency,
- stomatitis cancer pain,
- vaginal discharge,
- appetite increase,
- dryness of skin and mucosa (including dry mouth), and
- disturbances of taste and thirst.
The following adverse reactions have been identified during postapproval use of Femara. Because these reactions are reported voluntarily from a population of uncertain size, it is not always possible to reliably estimate their frequency or establish a causal relationship to drug exposure.
- Eye Disorders: blurred vision
- Hepatobiliary Disorders: increased hepatic enzymes, hepatitis
- Immune System Disorders: anaphylactic reactions, hypersensitivity reactions
- Nervous System Disorders: carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger
- Pregnancy: spontaneous abortions, congenital birth defects
- Skin and subcutaneous disorders: angioedema, toxic epidermal necrolysis, erythema multiforme
What drugs interact with Femara (letrozole)?
Coadministration of Femara and tamoxifen 20 mg daily resulted in a reduction of letrozole plasma levels of 38% on average (study P015). Clinical experience in the second-line breast cancer trials (AR/BC2 and AR/BC3) indicates that the therapeutic effect of Femara therapy is not impaired if Femara is administered immediately after tamoxifen.
- A pharmacokinetic interaction study with cimetidine (study P004) showed no clinically significant effect on letrozole pharmacokinetics.
- An interaction study (P017) with warfarin showed no clinically significant effect of letrozole on warfarin pharmacokinetics.
Other Anticancer Agents
- There is no clinical experience to date on the use of Femara in combination with other anticancer agents.
Femara (letrozole) is an anti-estrogen drug that is used to treat postmenopausal women with breast cancer. Common side effects of Femara include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, diarrhea, constipation, and chest pain. Femara is an anti-estrogen drug and causes fetal harm during pregnancy. It is unknown if Femara is secreted into breast milk.
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Breast cancer is an invasive tumor that develops in the mammary gland. Breast cancer is detected via mammograms, breast self-examination (BSE), biopsy, and specialized testing on breast cancer tissue. Treatment of breast cancer may involve surgery, radiation, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. Breast cancer risk may be lowered by managing controllable risk factors.
Breast Cancer Prevention
Lifestyle changes, a healthy antioxidant-rich diet, exercise, and weight reduction can help reduce a woman's risk of developing breast cancer. It's important to be aware of how risk factors such as family history, lifestyle factors, breast conditions, radiation therapy, and hormonal factors may influence your chances of developing breast cancer. Mammography and breast self-examinations are crucial steps in breast cancer prevention.
Breast Cancer Questions to Ask the Doctor
A diagnosis of breast cancer can be overwhelming, so it's important to write down all your questions before meeting with your doctor.
Breast Cancer and Coping With Stress
Being diagnosed with breast cancer is stressful. Learning relaxation techniques, exercising, eating well, getting adequate sleep, receiving psychotherapy, and maintaining a positive attitude can help you cope. Creating documents, such as an advance directive, living will, and durable power of attorney will outline your wishes in the event that you are no longer able to make decisions regarding your care.
Breast Cancer and Lymphedema
Lymphedema is a common chronic, debilitating condition in which excess fluid called lymph collects in tissues and causes swelling in them. It is common after a mastectomy, lumpectomy or breast cancer surgery and radiation therapy.
Breast Cancer During Pregnancy
Breast cancer occurs in about 1 in every 1,000 pregnant women. Treatment of breast cancer during pregnancy involves surgery, but it is very difficult to protect the baby from the dangerous effects of radiation and chemotherapy. It can be an agonizing to decide whether or not to undergo breast cancer treatment while one is pregnant.
Breast Cancer Recurrence
Breast cancer most often recurs within the first three to five years after the initial treatment. Changes in the look, feel, or appearance of the breast may indicate breast cancer recurrence. Factors related to recurrence include tumor size, tumor grade, hormone receptor status, lymph node involvement, and oncogene expression. Treatment for recurrent breast cancer depends on the initial treatment.
Breast Cancer Clinical Trials
Breast cancer clinical trials are research programs designed to evaluate new medical treatments, drugs, or devices for the treatment of breast cancer. Clinical trials are designed to test the safety and efficacy of new treatments as well as assess potential side effects. Clinical trials also compare new treatment to existing treatments to determine if it's any better. There are many important questions to ask your doctor before taking part in a breast cancer clinical trial.
Breast Cancer in Young Women
About 5% of cases of breast cancer occur in women under the age of 40 years old. Some risk factors for breast cancer in young women include a personal history of breast cancer or breast disease, family history of breast cancer, prior radiation therapy, and the presence of BRCA1/BRCA2 gene mutations. Breast self-exams, clinical breast exams, and screening mammograms may help detect breast cancer. Treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapy.
Inflammatory Breast Cancer
Inflammatory breast cancer is an accelerated form of breast cancer that is not usually detected by mammogram or ultrasound. Symptoms of inflammatory breast cancer include pain in the breast, skin change in the breast area, bruise on the breast,sudden swelling of the breast, nipple retraction or discharge, and swelling of the lymph nodes.
Male Breast Cancer
Male breast cancer accounts for 1% of all breast cancers, and most cases are found in men between the ages of 60 and 70. A man's risk of developing breast cancer is one in 1,000. Signs and symptoms include a firm mass located below the nipple and skin changes around the nipple, including puckering, redness or scaling, retraction and ulceration of the nipple. Treatment depends upon staging and the health of the patient.
Estimating Breast Cancer Risk: Questions and Answers
As breast cancer is the most diagnosed non-skin cancer in American women, it is important to know your breast cancer risk. Risk factors include age, age at menarche, age at first live birth, history of breast abnormalities, breast biopsies, race, and history or breast cancer among first-degree relatives.
Breast Cancer Treatment by Stage
Treatment of breast cancer depends upon the stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis. Some of the various treatments include: hormone therapy, radiation therapy, surgery, chemotherapy, HER2-targeted therapy, neoadjuvant therapy, and adjuvant therapy.
Genetic Testing: Families With Breast Cancer
Breast cancer can be a killer and the decision to get tested to see if a patient is prone to the disease should be discussed with a doctor -- particularly if the woman has a history of breast cancer in her family. Genetic testing can only tell so much about breast cancer risk, however.
Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
Triple-negative breast cancer is more common in Hispanic and African-American women. Signs and symptoms include a lump in the armpit or breast, nipple discharge and inversion, and changes in the breast's skin. Treatment may incorporate surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Breast Cancer Facts
Breast cancer is the most common non-skin cancer of American women, but it can also occur in men. Every year in the U.S., there are over 266,000 new diagnoses of breast cancer. A woman has a risk of one in eight for developing breast cancer at some point during her lifetime.
Breast Cancer Symptoms and Signs
In most cases, there are no early warning signs of breast cancer. Breast cancer may not produce any early symptoms, and in many cases, it is first discovered on screening mammography. The most common sign of breast cancer is a new lump or mass in the breast.
Breast Cancer Treatment
Breast cancer treatments depend upon the type of breast cancer that is present as well as the stage (extent of spread) of the tumor. Treatment for early breast cancer typically involves surgery to remove the tumor. After surgery, medical professionals may administer radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or targeted therapy.
HER2-Positive Breast Cancer
In about 10%-20% of breast cancers, the cancer cells test positive for HER2, sometimes referred to as the HER2/neu protein. HER2 is a growth-promoting protein located on the surface of some cancer cells. HER2-positive breast cancers tend to grow more rapidly and spread more aggressively than breast cancers that are HER2-negative. Doctors do not know what specifically causes some breast cancers to express this protein while others do not.
What Is the BRCA Gene?
BRCA genes (BRCA 1 and 2, when normal, repair damaged DNA) are among the genetic mutations linked to breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and other cancers when mutated. Every woman with a BRCA mutation is at high risk for breast cancer, irrespective of whether she has a family history of breast cancer or not. By age 80, a woman with a BRCA mutation has about an 80% chance of developing breast cancer. BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations also increase the risk of ovarian cancer, by 54% and 23%, respectively.
Breast Cancer Stages
Breast cancer staging is the determination of the extent and spread of the cancer. An individual's health care team uses stages to summarize the extent of the cancer in a standardized way that is recognized by all health care providers. They use this staging to determine the treatment most appropriate for the type of cancer. Cancer staging helps to determine the prognosis, or outlook, of a cancer, including rates of recurrence and survival rates.
Can Fibroadenomas Turn Into Breast Cancer?
A fibroadenoma is the most common type of benign, non-cancerous lump of the breast. Although it is rare, complex fibroadenomas and phyllodes tumors have a chance to develop into malignant breast cancer.
What Are The Five Warning Signs Of Breast Cancer?
The majority of breast cancer patients first seek diagnosis because of a lump on the breast. This is one of the five warning signs of breast cancer. Others include changes in the nipple, changes in the breast skin and other symptoms.
What Is Usually the First Sign of Breast Cancer?
A lump in the breast or in the armpits is often the first sign of breast cancer. This may be felt while in the shower. There may or may not be changes in the structure of the breast. Other early signs include changes in breast skin, breast pain and others.
What Are the Four Types of Breast Cancer?
The four most common types of breast cancer are ductal carcinoma in situ, lobular carcinoma in situ, invasive ductal carcinoma, invasive lobular carcinoma. The designations are based on the locations of the tumors, whether they have spread and where they have spread to.
How Can You Detect Breast Cancer Early?
Breast cancer develops from the cells of the breasts and can spread to other parts of the body (metastasis). It is one of the most common cancers diagnosed in women in the United States. A lump in the breast or armpit is often the first sign. Treatment success depends largely on early detection.
Breast Cancer Growth Rate
The available evidence suggests that breast cancer may begin to grow around 10 years before it is detected. However, the time for development differs from tumor to tumor.
Are There Any Clinical Trials for Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among American women. Around 250,000 women and 2,300 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the United States. Each year, breast cancer kills around 42000 women and 510 men in the United States.
What Is the Newest Treatment for Breast Cancer?
Targeted therapies are a newer form of breast cancer treatment. They can be used alone or along with other therapies. Targeted therapies directly target cancer cells or specific processes that contribute to the growth of cancer cells. Target therapy often has fewer side effects.
Treatment & Diagnosis
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Medications & Supplements
Report Problems to the Food and Drug Administration
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
Professional side effects and drug interactions sections courtesy of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.