Tamoxifen (Nolvadex) and raloxifene (Evista) are part of a drug class called selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs). "These go into the cell and bind to the estrogen receptor. They shut down the receptors and stop cell growth and division associated with that receptor," explains Dr. Gralow.
The side effects of tamoxifen and other SERMs can include hot flashes, vaginal discharge, and other menopausal symptoms, such as irregular periods, headaches, and fatigue. SERMs may also raise a woman's risk for uterine cancer, so regular pelvic exams are recommended.
You can expect to take any of these drugs once a day for five yearsalthough a 2007 study in the journal Cancer suggests that tamoxifen may be on its way out for breast cancer survivors who've passed menopause: Two multicenter trials found that when women who'd been taking tamoxifen for two or three years switched to an AI, their survival rates significantly improved compared with continuing on with tamoxifen. AIs also have another big bonus: fewer long-term side effects, save the bone-density issue.