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Month: October 2014

Managing side effects

Managing side effects

Side Effects - On the Path blog by Cheryl Schatz

Side Effects?

I thought I was done with side effects since I finished chemotherapy, but I am learning that anything that is strong enough to wallop cancer will likely also cause side effects. I am now waiting for surgery because of the side effects from the pill that I was prescribed to keep me from having a recurrence of cancer.

The pill is called Femara or Letrozole. This tiny little pill is a nonsterooidal aromatase inhibitor (AI) and it is used to treat advanced breast cancer. It fights breast cancer by inactivating an enzyme called aromatase and in turn this prevents the enzyme from supplying estrogen to the cancers that are dependant on estrogen to grow and survive.

At first I didn’t have any side effects from the pill but within three months of starting the treatment I developed bumps around my wrists and then it progressed to pain. Three fingers in my left hand became numb and this numbness did not go away after waking in the morning. I was referred to a nerve specialist and her tests showed that I had nerve damage in my fingers from carpal tunnel syndrome.  The nerves are already starting to die off so she recommends immediate surgery. My doctor also said that I had tendonitis in both my wrists and this is causing radiating pain up my arms. All of this is a known side effect of Femara. The nerve specialist has warned me that if I don’t have surgery soon, my thumb muscle could atrophy I could have permanent nerve damage in my hand. Lovely.

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