Femara (Letrozole) is an nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitor, primarily used for treating breast cancer in post-menopausal women. It may also be prescribed to treat metastasis in both pre and post-menopausal women, and when treatment with other medications, usually Tamoxifen, is not producing results. It is also occasionally used in fertility treatment, and as a pre-treatment before pregnancy termination.
The majority of Femara users are post-menopausal women at high-risk of, or already suffering from, hormonally-responsive breast cancer. In many cases these women have already undergone treatment with other cancer medications, usually Tamoxifen, when the condition fails to respond or worsens under the other treatments. A pregnancy test is sometimes required before Femara is prescribed.
Hormonally-responsive cancer, as the name implies, responds to hormones like estrogen. In post-menopausal women estrogen is primarily produced in the breasts and in certain parts of the brain. Femara inhibits the production of estrogen in these areas, effectively starving the cancer, or preventing it from growing and spreading. In women at high risk of developing breast cancer, Femara may be an effective preventative measure. Femara is ineffective at combating cancer in pre-menopausal women because estrogen in pre-menopausal women is primarily produced by the ovaries. Femara does not inhibit estrogen production in the ovaries.
Other treatments which impact hormone levels, such as estrogen replacement therapies, estrogen creams, or birth control pills, may greatly interfere with Femara’s effectiveness. For this reason it is important the prescribing physician is aware of all other prescription and non-prescription medications being taken for the duration of treatment.
Femara is a tablet usually taken once daily with a full glass of fluid. Effort should be made to take it around the same time each day. It may be taken with or without food. Dosage and duration of treatment will vary depending on the condition being treated and patient response. It is not unusual for treatment to last 5 years or longer, and for dosage to be adjusted several times during treatment. Treatment frequently begins after 2 to 5 years of treatment with tamoxifen has already occurred. Missed doses should be taken when remembered. If it is near time for the next dose, it may be skipped entirely. Double doses should be avoided.
Patients with known hypersensitivity to any of the ingredients in Femara should not use this medication. This product contains lactose. Side effects are rare, usually mild, and frequently stop after the body adjusts to treatment. If side effects persist, are severe, or worsen, a physician should be consulted: headache, hot flashes, sweating, especially at night, weight gain, fatigue, weakness, or dizziness, stomachache or nausea, swelling in hands, feet or ankles (edema).
Femara may decrease bone density in some women, increasing the risk of bone fractures or breaks. Frequent bone density tests may be requested for high-risk patients. Women taking Femara are often prescribed osteoporosis medication as well.
Patients should read the information provided with this medication for a complete list of possible adverse effects and interactions.