What is Arimidex?
Arimidex (anastrozole) lowers estrogen levels in postmenopausal women, which may slow the growth of certain types of breast tumors that need estrogen to grow in the body.
Arimidex is used to treat breast cancer in postmenopausal women. It is often given to women whose cancer has progressed even after taking tamoxifen (Nolvadex, Soltamox).
Arimidex may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.
Do not use Arimidex if you are pregnant. It could harm the unborn baby.
Arimidex may not work as well if you take it together with estrogen medication (such as hormone replacement therapy, estrogen creams, or birth control pills, injections, implants, skin patches, and vaginal rings).
Arimidex may increase your risk of a stroke or blood clot. Call your doctor at once if you have sudden numbness or weakness, (especially on one side of the body), sudden severe headache, slurred speech, or problems with vision or balance.
Before taking this medicine
You should not use Arimidex if you are allergic to anastrozole, if you are breast-feeding a baby, or if you have not yet completed menopause. Arimidex is not for use in men or children.
To make sure Arimidex is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have:
- heart disease;
- circulation problems;
- a history of stroke or blood clot;
- severe liver disease;
- high cholesterol; or
- osteoporosis or low bone mineral density.
Arimidex can decrease bone mineral density, which may increase your risk of developing osteoporosis. Your bone mineral density may need to be tested before and during treatment with anastrozole.
Although it is not likely that a postmenopausal woman would be pregnant, anastrozole could harm an unborn baby. Do not take this medicine if you are pregnant or may become pregnant. Use effective birth control if you are not past menopause, and tell your doctor right away if you become pregnant during treatment.
It is not known whether anastrozole passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. You should not breast-feed while you are using Arimidex.
You may need to take a pregnancy test before using Arimidex, to make sure you are not pregnant.
How should I take Arimidex?
Arimidex is usually taken once per day. Follow all directions on your prescription label. Do not take this medicine in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.
- You may take Arimidex with or without food.
- You may need to keep taking this medication for up to 5 years. Follow your doctor’s instructions.
- Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat.
What happens if I miss a dose?
Take the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not take extra medicine to make up the missed dose.
What should I avoid?
Anastrozole can pass into body fluids (urine, feces, vomit). Caregivers should wear rubber gloves while cleaning up a patient’s body fluids, handling contaminated trash or laundry or changing diapers. Wash hands before and after removing gloves. Wash soiled clothing and linens separately from other laundry.
This medication may impair your thinking or reactions. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be alert.
Arimidex side effects
Get emergency medical help if you have any signs of an allergic reaction to Arimidex: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.
- Call your doctor at once if you have:
- shortness of breath (even with mild exertion), swelling, rapid weight gain;
- a bone fracture;
- swollen glands;
liver problems – nausea, upper stomach pain, itching, tired feeling, loss of appetite, dark urine, clay-colored stools, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes);
signs of a stroke – sudden numbness or weakness (especially on one side of the body), sudden severe headache, slurred speech, problems with vision or balance; or
severe skin reaction – fever, sore throat, swelling in your face or tongue, burning in your eyes, skin pain, followed by a red or purple skin rash that spreads (especially in the face or upper body) and causes blistering and peeling.
Common Arimidex side effects may include:
- weakness, hot flashes;
- numbness or tingly feeling in your skin;
- swelling in your ankles or feet;
- joint pain or stiffness, problems with your fingers while gripping;
- sore throat, headache, back pain, bone pain;
- depression, mood changes, sleep problems (insomnia);
- high blood pressure (severe headache, blurred vision, pounding in your neck or ears);
- nausea, vomiting; or
- mild rash.
Benefits of Arimidex
The large ATAC (Arimidex, Tamoxifen Alone or in Combination) trial compared Arimidex to tamoxifen after surgery. The researchers wanted to know how the medicines worked by themselves as well as together to see which combination would be the best treatment for postmenopausal women diagnosed with early-stage, hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Based on the results of this trial, giving Arimidex and tamoxifen at the same time isn’t recommended.
The ATAC study found that 5 years of Arimidex is better than 5 years of tamoxifen as the first hormonal therapy for postmenopausal women with early-stage, hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Arimidex is better than tamoxifen for:
increasing the time before the cancer comes back in those who experience recurrence
reducing the risk of the cancer spreading to other parts of the body
reducing the risk of a new cancer developing in the other breast
Research presented at the 2013 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium showed that Arimidex can lower the risk of first-time, hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer in postmenopausal women at high risk who haven’t been diagnosed. Arimidex isn’t approved by the FDA for this use, but doctors may consider it a good alternative to other hormonal therapies approved to reduce risk in high-risk women.
It’s possible that the FDA may approve Arimidex to be used to reduce risk in high-risk postmenopausal women who haven’t been diagnosed.
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