If you have ever seen any commercials for any medications on TV, you no doubt have been aware of the extensive list of potential side effects that are either shown on the screen or listed by the announcer who sounds much like an auctioneer. This occurs because the FDA requires such notification. Likewise, when you receive a prescription from your doctor, you not only receive the medication but also a pamphlet that lists all of the potential side effects that you may experience. Such will be the case for every single hormone receptor-positive breast cancer patient who undergoes surgery followed at some point with hormone therapy. And as this treatment is prescribed for a minimum of five years, much has been discussed about the benefits to the patient when measured against the potential side effects.
Stopping treatment without medical recommendation is never a good idea. If a patient is not receiving the care or attention to a problem that they feel is needed, a second referral or opinion should be the option.Barbara Jacoby
Such was not the case when I personally began hormone therapy treatment. I was blissfully ignorant of possible side effects and had no thoughts that they even existed. And based upon a report that I recently read about the expectation factor, this may have been a good thing as it seems that the expectation of side effects may very well influence our manifesting them. But, on the flip side, when shortly into the beginning of the fifth year of treatment when I was switched to the generic brand of the drug that I was taking and started having severe hip joint pain, I never even thought that the new drug could be the cause. And it was many months until I did research on the Internet to learn that this was, in fact, one of the side effects.
And I did exactly as most patients do and stopped taking the medication immediately. And in my case, since my oncologist was no longer participating in my medical group, my treatment was halted until I could get an appointment with my primary care physician, get a referral to a new oncologist, have the insurance provider approve the referral and get an appointment with the new oncologist. And by that time, it was well past the 5-year period of treatment and no further treatment was recommended.
I can understand why a patient would choose to stop taking a drug when she starts to experience adverse side effects. Many of the side effects that apply to one drug are the same for others that are in the same family; in this case, the group known as aromatase inhibitors. However, as I learned in my own situation, what works perfectly for one person may not be the best the next. This is the reason that there are so many different options within the hormone therapy family. The difficult part is for the oncologist to prescribe the best choice for a patient based upon all of the factors involved as presented by each unique patient.
Therefore, if a patient is experiencing problems that may be related to a drug that has been prescribed to them, their medical team should be immediately informed. The medical professionals are the ones in a position to determine if what they are experiencing is actually related to their treatment or whether something else entirely is occurring. If the problem is occurring because of the treatment, you can be fairly certain that this particular side effect has presented itself in other patients and therefore, the medical team will have a pretty good idea of what the next step or treatment should be.
Stopping treatment without medical recommendation is never a good idea. If a patient is not receiving the care or attention to a problem that they feel is needed, a second referral or opinion should be the option. There are so many factors involved in deciding treatments that we must rely on those who are in a position to know. And if for any reason, a person is not satisfied with the medical care that they are receiving, don’t give up. What is needed can be found if you keep on searching. After all, this may be the difference between life and death.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.