Entries in the ‘Side Effects Aromatase Inhibitors’ Category

August 29th, 2010

Ease Aromatase Inhibitor Side Effects Naturally!

From time to time if I notice studies that have bearing on women’s health I be glad to send you a head’s up. I read a really nice article today written by Dr. Aminah Keats, ND, FABNO who is the director of naturopathic medicine at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Philadelphia.  The article was presented in the journal Naturopathic Doctor News and Review.  Here are a few salient points.


Breast Cancer is a disease that many women face.  The National Cancer Institute, a component of the National Institutes of Health, estimates that, based on current rates, 12.7 percent of women born today will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some time in their lives.  That is sometimes indicated as 1 in 8 women. 


As women progress from standard treatment (chemo/radiation) into a “post-cancer” phase they will likely be faced with a decision to start Aromatase Inhibitors (AIs).  The AIs have become the new gold standard for first line endocrine treatment in postmenopausal women with advanced breast cancer.  They prevent the peripheral conversion of androstenedione into estrogen.  In postmenopausal women this is the primary source of estrogen.


Phase III trials show that AIs are more effective and better tolerated than tamoxifen as first –line management of metastatic breast cancer in postmenopausal women.  Tamoxifen is still considered the best for prevention of breast cancer in high risk groups.  Tamoxifen is no longer considered the standard of care in hormone receptor-positive disease, especially among menopausal women.


The problem with Aromatase Inhibitors is that they cause significant joint pain and bone loss for a large number of women. 


Bisphosphonates (medications which address bone loss) are successful at preventing AI-associated bone loss.    Integrative Medicine would also recommend Calcium with Vitamin D supplementation along with weight bearing exercise as a means of sustaining bone health.


Joint pain tends to be the side effect that limits a woman’s ability to continue taking the AIs.  Women report that although they would like to continue treatment, they cannot withstand the joint pain.  It is here that Naturopathic Medicine has a great deal to offer.  NSAIDs, as you may be aware, can have fairly serious side effects to the GI tract, and in some cases can be problematic for heart health. 

Three more natural choices rise as very good alternatives to NSAIDs:  Acupuncture, Fish Oil and an herb from the East Indian tradition called Boswellia serrata.


In a 2010 study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (Crew, KD, Capodice JL, et al. J Clin Oncol 2010; 28(7): 1154-1160.) researchers found in a randomized, controlled, blinded study comparing true acupuncture with “sham” acupuncture that postmenopausal women with AI-induced joint pain has significantly lower pain scores after 6 weeks if they received true acupuncture.


Fish oil showed great results for patients with joint pain, as well.  In a 2006 study published in  the journal Surgical Neurology (Maroon JC, Bost JW. Surg Neurol 2006; 65(4):326-331) patients were given 1200-2400 mg of omega – 3 fatty acids daily.  After an average of 75 days 59% discontinued their prescription NSAID for pain.  60 percent stated that their overall pain had improved.


An extract of the Boswellia serrata plant, 5-loxin, was studied for the treatment of osteoarthritis in the knee in a double blind, randomized placebo controlled study.  The 5-loxin reduced pain and improved physical functioning significantly in the patient with OA.  They researchers concluded that the effect might be due to the reduction in proinflammatory modulators – stopping the inflammation pathway before is could start.


I thought this was interesting information and might offer some ideas for women that have side effects from their necessary anti-cancer treatments.  It is nice to see what clinical trials are out there that may be relevant to women in cancer recovery.

There was more to the article, and if you’d like a copy, let me know, drop me an email at