Seek help, as Kerry Apicella did, if your side effects last.

Seek help, as Kerry Apicella did, if your side effects last.(KERRY APICELLA)

New Yorker Kerry Apicella, 62, had breast cancer that was hormone receptor-positive, so her doctor recommended an aromatase inhibitor (AI) called Arimidex to cut the chances of a recurrence by reducing the amount of estrogen in her body. Apicella hasn't found her daily dose to be much trouble, but it was a rocky start when she began taking the pills in March 2005.

"I experienced joint pain and some lethargy and blues," she reports. While Effexor fixed the depression, it did nothing at first for her "awful, awful" hot flashes—until finally they diminished over time.

Hot flashes are common with AIs, a class of drugs that also includes Aromasin and Femara and that women generally stay on for up to five years. In a June 2008 Breast Cancer Action survey of 1,199 breast cancer patients, 97.7% reported one or more AI side effects and 66.8% reported experiencing hot flashes. Other unwanted effects of being on the drugs included bone pain (63.9%), feeling tired (61.2%), muscle pain (58.5%), and insomnia (53.4%).

Seek help—as Apicella did—if your side effects don't start to fade after a few weeks. Apicella also gets a bone density scan twice a year to check for bone loss, another potential AI side effect.