Femara (Letrozole) is an aromatase inhibitor used to treat breast cancer in women after menopause. Femara (Letrozole) is indicated for the treatment of postmenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive or hormone receptor-unknown locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer. Femara (Letrozole)is also indicated for the treatment of advanced cancer in postmenopausal women with disease progression following antiestrogen therapy.
Taking Femara (Letrozole)is a very important step that can help you gain a sense of control in your battle against advanced breast cancer, but there are many other steps that will enhance your life.
Having been diagnosed with breast cancer, you are likely to have many questions about the changes that may be taking place in your breast. First, it is necessary to know the parts of the breast. Each breast has 15 to 20 sections, called lobes, which have smaller sections called lobules, the glands responsible for making milk.
Lobes and lobules are joined by thin tubes called ducts. The breast also contains blood vessels and lymph vessels; they carry a fluid called lymph, which contains infection-fighting cells. Lymph vessels lead to tiny, bean-shaped organs called lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are found throughout the body, including under the arm, above the collarbone, and in the chest. There are many types of breast cancer, named by the part of the breast in which they begin. Ductal carcinoma is the most common type of breast cancer; it begins in the cells of the ducts. Lobular carcinoma is another type of breast cancer; it begins in the lobes or lobules.
Today there are an increasing number of options for treating advanced breast cancer. Traditional methods include surgery (procedures such as lumpectomy or mastectomy), radiation therapy (applied at the site of the cancer), and chemotherapy. Chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells, but because they cannot tell the difference between cancer cells and normal cells, they also kill some normal cells in the process.
Femara (Letrozole) is not a chemotherapy drug. Femara (Letrozole) is one of a group of drugs known as hormonal therapy.
Hormonal therapies do not act directly on cancer cells. Instead they affect hormones, enzymes our bodies produce naturally that play an important role in normal function. Specifically, the female hormone estrogen plays an important role in breast cancer. In effect, estrogen feeds these tumors and makes them grow and spread. These breast cancers are termed hormone dependent or estrogen dependent.
Hormonal therapy in breast cancer acts on estrogen, either directly or indirectly. The goal of hormonal therapy is to deprive the cancer cells of the estrogen that allows them to grow.
In premenopausal women, the ovaries are the primary source of estrogen production. In postmenopausal women, the ovaries no longer produce estrogen. However, the body produces estrogen from other hormones known as androgens through the action of an enzyme called aromatase.
Tamoxifen, introduced in the 1970s, was the first hormonal therapy drug and a major breakthrough in the treatment of breast cancer. It is a type of drug known as antiestrogen therapy. It blocks the action of estrogen by attaching to estrogen receptors in cancer cells and preventing estrogen from binding to them.
In the late 1990s, a new form of estrogen therapy emerged, known as aromatase inhibitors. These drugs work indirectly on estrogen by interfering with the enzyme that produces estrogen in postmenopausal women. This enzyme is called aromatase. Femara (Letrozole) is an aromatase inhibitor.
Femara side effects, that may go away during treatment, include hot flashes, headache, loss of appetite, general pain, weakness, nausea, or diarrhea. If Femara side effects continue or are bothersome, check with your doctor. CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR AS SOON AS POSSIBLE if you experience Femara side effects like swelling of feet or ankles, or unexplained fever or sore throat. If you notice other Femara side effects not listed above, contact your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.