Care During Chemotherapy and Beyond
Generic Name: Exemestane (ex e MES tane)
Trade Name: Aromasin®
Exemestane is the generic name for the trade name drug Aromasin®. In some cases, health care professionals may use the trade name Aromasin® when referring to the generic drug name exemestane.
Exemestane is an anti-cancer hormone therapy. It is classified as an "aromatase inhibitor." (For more detail see "How Exemestane Works" below).
What Exemestane Is Used For:
- Exemestane is used to treat advanced breast cancer in postmenopausal women.
- Risk reduction for invasive breast cancer in postmenopausal women.
Note: If a drug has been approved for one use, physicians may elect to use this same drug for other problems if they believe it may be helpful.
How Exemestane Is Given:
- Exemestane is a pill, taken by mouth.
- You should take exemestane at about the same time each day. Take with food. If you miss a dose, do not take a double dose the next day.
- You should not stop taking exemestane without discussing with your physician.
- The amount of exemestane you receive depends on many factors. Your doctor will determine your dose and how long you will be taking exemestane.
Side Effects of Exemestane:
Important things to remember about the side effects of exemestane:
- Most people do not experience all of the side effects listed.
- Side effects are often predictable in terms of their onset and duration.
- Side effects are almost always reversible and will go away after treatment is complete.
- There are many options to help minimize or prevent side effects.
- There is no relationship between the presence or severity of side effects and the effectiveness of the medication.
The following side effects are common (occurring in greater than 30%) for patients taking exemestane:
These side effects are less common side effects (occurring in about 10-29%) of patients receiving exemestane:
Not all side effects are listed above. Some that are rare (occurring in less than 10% of patients) are not listed here. However, you should always inform your health care provider if you experience any unusual symptoms.
When to contact your doctor or health care provider:
Contact your health care provider immediately, day or night, if you should experience any of the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Having thoughts or feeling like you may want to harm yourself or others
The following symptoms require medical attention, but are not an emergency. Contact your health care provider within 24 hours of noticing any of the following:
- Vaginal bleeding (similar to a period)
Always inform your health care provider if you experience any unusual symptoms.
- Before starting Exemestane treatment, make sure you tell your doctor about any other medications you are taking (including prescription, over-the-counter, vitamins, herbal remedies, etc.).
- Exemestane can cause decreased bone mineral density due to decreases in estrogen levels. Your doctor will monitor your bone mineral density and may prescribe calcium supplements, vitamin D supplements, or other medications to help prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures.
- Do not receive any kind of immunization or vaccination without your doctor's approval while taking Exemestane.
- Inform your health care professional if you are pregnant or may be pregnant prior to starting this treatment. Pregnancy category X (Exemestane may cause fetal harm when given to a pregnant woman. This drug must not be given to a pregnant woman or a woman who intends to become pregnant. If a woman becomes pregnant while taking Exemestane, the medication must be stopped immediately and the woman given appropriate counseling).
- For both men and women: Use contraceptives, and do not conceive a child (get pregnant) while taking Exemestane. Barrier methods of contraception, such as condoms, are recommended. Discuss with your doctor when you may safely become pregnant or conceive a child after therapy.
- Do not breast feed while taking Exemestane.
- Take Exemestane after a meal; at about the same time every day.
- Exemestane causes little nausea. But if you should experience nausea, take anti-nausea medications are prescribed by your doctor, and eat small frequent meals. Such on lozenges and chewing gum may also help.
- In general, drinking alcoholic beverages should be kept to a minimum or avoided completely. You should discuss this with your doctor.
- If you are experiencing hot flashes, wearing light clothing, staying in a cool environment, and putting cool cloths on your head may reduce symptoms. Consult your health care provider if these worsen, or become intolerable.
- Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help relieve discomfort generalized aches and pains. However, be sure to talk with your doctor before taking it.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Maintain good nutrition.
- If you experience symptoms or side effects, be sure to discuss them with your health care team. They can prescribe medications and/or offer other suggestions that are effective in managing such problems.
Monitoring and Testing While Taking Exemestane:
You will be monitored regularly by your doctor while you are taking Exemestane, to monitor side effects and check your response to therapy. The doctor may check your vitamin D levels and bone mineral density when starting Exemestane, and will monitor your bone mineral density while taking Exemestane.
How Exemestane Works:
Hormones are chemical substances that are produced by glands in the body, which enter the bloodstream and cause effects in other tissues. For example, the hormone testosterone is made in the testicles and is responsible for male characteristics such as deepening voice and increased body hair. The use of hormone therapy to treat cancer is based on the observation that receptors for specific hormones that are needed for cell growth are on the surface of some tumor cells. Hormone therapies work by stopping the production of a certain hormone, blocking hormone receptors, or substituting chemically similar agents for the active hormone, which cannot be used by the tumor cell. The different types of hormone therapies are categorized by their function and/or the type of hormone that is affected.
Exemestane is an aromatase inhibitor. This means it blocks the enzyme aromatase (found in the body's muscle, skin, breast and fat), which is used to convert androgens (hormones produced by the adrenal glands) into estrogen. In the absence of estrogen, tumors dependent on this hormone for growth will shrink.
Note: We strongly encourage you to talk with your health care professional about your specific medical condition and treatments. The information contained in this website is meant to be helpful and educational, but is not a substitute for medical advice.
- Aromasin (exemestane) [package insert]. New York, NY: Pfizer; May 2014.
- Lexicomp Online®, Lexi-Drugs®, Hudson, Ohio: Lexi-Comp, Inc.; March 30, 2016.
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