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Exemestane (more commonly known by the brand name Aromasin) is used to inhibit production of estrogen in women who have, or who are at high risk of developing, breast cancer. It is most frequently used in post-menopausal women, as its mechanism of action does little to lower overall estrogen levels in pre-menopausal women.

The medication is very often used after several years of treatment with similar estrogen-reducing treatments, most notably tamoxifen, but is also used on its own as a preventive measure. Exemestane has shown to be more effective than treatment with tamoxifen alone for preventing both growth and spread of cancer. Women using it as a preventive treatment are over 50 percent less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer.

This treatment, if successful, is an alternative to chemotherapy.

Battling Breast Cancer

Exemestane combats breast cancer by reducing the amount of estrogen in the body. Since some types of breast cancer require estrogen to grow and thrive, depriving the cancer of estrogen will inhibit its ability to grow and spread, or, when used as a preventive measure, to develop at all.

The drug binds with aromatase enzymes, which prevents the enzymes from converting other hormones into estrogen. The binding action is permanent and will not reverse when treatment stops, which means estrogen production will be permanently lowered.

In the majority of cases, dosage and administration is similar when used as either a preventive treatment or at various stages of cancer:

  • Take one 25 mg tablet per day
  • It should always be taken after a meal
  • Do not split, crush, dissolve or otherwise damage tablets
  • Treatment typically spans two to five years, sometimes more

Given the severity of the condition, regular doctor checkups are strongly encouraged to ensure exemestane is working properly and to monitor for any developing adverse reactions.


Some things to keep in mind to ensure treatment is as trouble-free as possible:

  • Notify physicians or dentists that exemestane is being taken before undergoing any procedures.
  • The medication may reduce bone density; bone density tests may be done prior to starting treatment and periodically throughout treatment.
  • Exemestane may interact with other medications, including prescription, non-prescription and supplements, which may reduce its effectiveness and/or produce side effects. Speak with a doctor or pharmacist if unsure of the safety of mixing medications.
  • Though sometimes used in pre-menopausal women, this product should never be used if pregnant or trying to become pregnant.

Exemestane can be sensitive to storage conditions, losing effectiveness if kept in direct sunlight, exposed to moisture, or if kept for long periods below 15 degrees C (60 degrees F) or above 30 degrees C (86 degrees F).

Adverse Effects

Most patients use exemestane without any serious side effects; in fact the rarity of severe side effects is one of the reasons it is so widely used. Most side effects that are experienced are mild and stop occurring as the body adjusts to treatment:

  • Hot flashes
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Hair loss
  • Pain in joints, bone, or muscles
  • Unusual sweating
  • Diarrhea, dizziness
  • Difficulty sleeping

Rarely more serious adverse effects develop while taking exemestane. Warning signs to be alert for include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin or eyes, dark urine, clay-colored stools)
  • Blood clots (pain, redness, warmth, or swelling in lowers leg or groin)
  • Allergic reaction (rash, hives, itching, swelling, difficulty breathing)
  • Osteoporosis (easy breaks or fractures, unexplained pain, stooped posture)
  • Edema (swelling in extremities)
  • Vision problems
  • Loss of balance

If any of the above symptoms are noticed, bring them to the attention of a doctor right away. Left untreated, severe side effects can result in life-threatening complications.


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Medicines have benefits and some have risks. Always read the label and use only as directed. If symptoms persist or you have side effects see your health professional.

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