Letrozole is a medication that is utilized to treat early breast cancer in postmenopausal women who have undergone other treatments like radiation or surgery to remove the tumor. It is also prescribed for women who have already received tamoxifen for 5 years as a treatment for early breast cancer after menopause.
Letrozole is also administered as a first-line treatment for breast cancer that has spread within the breast or to other areas of the body, or for women whose breast cancer has worsened while they were taking tamoxifen. This medication belongs to a class of drugs known as nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitors, which work by reducing the amount of estrogen produced by the body. By doing so, letrozole can slow down or halt the growth of some types of breast cancer cells that require estrogen to thrive.
Uses and Dosage
To take this medication, consume it orally once a day with or without food, or as prescribed by your physician. The appropriate dosage is determined based on your medical condition and response to the treatment.
For optimal results, use this medication consistently, and take it at the same time every day to assist with remembering.
As this medication can be absorbed via the skin and lungs, pregnant women should avoid handling this medication or inhaling the tablets’ dust.
Notify your doctor immediately if your condition deteriorates, such as if you develop new breast lumps.
Some side effects may occur that usually do not need medical attention:
- hot flushes
- night sweats
- loss of appetite
- stomach pain
- changes in weight
- muscle, joint, or bone pain
- excessive tiredness
- swelling of the hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
- difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- vaginal bleeding or irritation
- breast pain
- hair loss
- blurry vision
Inform your healthcare provider immediately if you experience any serious side effects:
- chest pain
- difficulty breathing
- unusual bleeding or bruising
- pain in the upper right part of the stomach
- yellowing of the skin or eyes
- flu-like symptoms
- pain, warmth, or heaviness in the back of the lower leg
- severe headache
- sudden speech problems
- sudden weakness or numbness of an arm or leg
Prior to taking letrozole, inform your doctor or pharmacist of any allergies you may have, whether to letrozole or anastrozole, or any other allergies. This product may contain inactive components that can cause allergic reactions or other complications.
Before using this medication, inform your doctor or pharmacist of your medical history, particularly if you have high blood fats (cholesterol), bone issues (such as osteopenia, osteoporosis), a history of stroke or blood clots, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney problems, or liver issues.
This medication may cause dizziness, fatigue, or blurred vision in some individuals, though this is rare. The use of alcohol or marijuana can exacerbate dizziness and fatigue. Do not drive, operate machinery, or perform any activity that requires alertness or clear vision until you can do so safely.
This medication must not be used during pregnancy because it can harm an unborn baby. Letrozole is primarily used in women who have undergone menopause. If you have recently undergone menopause, discuss with your doctor the need for reliable forms of birth control while taking this medication and for three weeks after treatment discontinuation. Do not use birth control products containing estrogen.
If you become pregnant or suspect that you may be pregnant, contact your doctor right away.
It is unknown if this medication passes into breast milk. Due to the potential risk to the infant, breast-feeding while using this medication and for at least three weeks after treatment discontinuation is not recommended.
Form and Strength
Femara is available in the following forms and strengths:
What does Femara do to your body?
Femara works by blocking the enzyme aromatase, which turns the hormone androgen into small amounts of estrogen in the body. This means less estrogen is available to stimulate the growth or hormone receptor-positive breast cancer cells.
How long should you stay on Femara?
People being treated for primary breast cancer will usually take letrozole for five to ten years.