Aromatase inhibitors (AI) are prescribed for postmenopausal women with estrogen-positive breast cancers. These drugs are preferable to tamoxifen. They do not carry the risk for deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms that tamoxifen does. Medscape Today reported on Feb. 1, 2013 that women using AI drugs discuss their experiences online. The report states that the types of side effects discussed online are consistent with side effects patients discuss with their doctors.
The online experience
Cancer patients often research treatment and side effects of drugs online. The internet is full of important and relevant information on specific drug side effects. New cancer treatments are reported on daily. What women are finding is that there are online communities and forums specifically for women with breast cancer. These forums are a safe way to discuss treatment success and failures as well as a way to discuss drug side effects.
Forums have a certain anonymity to them. Some women do not like support groups and are not comfortable discussing their health problems with others in a face-to-face environment. Online forums are safe, there is no pressure to post and you can see what others are posting before you jump in.
The Medscape Today report shows that the number of complaints about AI side effects reflects the frequency of side effects reported in major clinical trials.
AI side effects
The most common side effects from AI drugs are: musculoskeletal pain and stiffness, hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, bone loss, osteoporosis, and weight gain.
Doctors warn that everyone responds to treatments differently and basing treatment decisions by what you see online is not a good idea. However, this study shows that women are accurately reporting their side effects online, with the most common being adverse musculoskeletal effects.
It has been my experience with cancer treatment, that doctors do not always reveal a drug’s side effects, leaving patients lacking the information required to make a true informed consent. Women should check reliable forums and websites by the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute to get accurate information about treatment side effects and possible alternatives to those treatments.
Lynda Altman is currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She writes a blog about homeschooling when mom has cancer at arkansashomeschoolers.com. You can reach her at email@example.com.