Raloxifene is a type of drug called a selective oestrogen receptor modulator (SERM). You might have it as a treatment to:
- lower the risk of breast cancer if you have a high or moderate risk of developing it
- prevent and treat bone thinning (osteoporosis)
Raloxifene is only for women who no longer have their periods (post menopausal).
How Raloxifene works
Raloxifene acts like the female sex hormone oestrogen, although it isn't a hormone. It copies how the oestrogen works and is able to increase the thickness (density) of the bone to prevent and treat bone thinning.
To prevent breast cancer raloxifene is able to block the hormone oestrogen. Some breast cancer cells need hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone to grow. Raloxifene stops oestrogen from encouraging breast cancer cells to grow.
How you have Raloxifene
Raloxifene is a tablet that you swallow. You take it once a day.
Taking your tablets
You should take the right dose, not more or less.
Talk to your specialist or advice line before you stop taking a cancer drug.
When you have Raloxifene
You can choose the best time to take it, but you need to take it at about the same time every day. If you are taking it to reduce the risk of breast cancer, you take it for 5 years.
Ask your doctor how long you should take raloxifene. They may also advise you to take calcium and vitamin D supplements.
You have blood tests before and during your treatment. They check your levels of blood cells and other substances in the blood. They also check how well your liver and kidneys are working.
How often and how severe the side effects are can vary from person to person. They also depend on what other treatment you are having. For example, your side effects could be worse if you are also having other drugs or radiotherapy.
When to contact your team
Your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist will go through the possible side effects. They will monitor you closely during treatment and check how you are at your appointments. Contact your advice line as soon as possible if:
- you have severe side effects
- your side effects aren’t getting any better
- your side effects are getting worse
We haven't listed all the side effects here. Remember it is very unlikely that you will have all of these side effects, but you might have some of them at the same time.
Common side effects
These side effects happen in more than 10 in 100 people (more than 10%). You might have one or more of them. They include:
Hot flushes or sweats
We have some tips for coping with hot flushes and the possible treatments. Talk to your doctor if your hot flushes are hard to cope with. They might be able to prescribe you some medicines.
You may have headaches, muscle aches (myalgia), a high temperature and shivering. You should contact your advice line urgently if you have these symptoms.
Feeling or being sick
Feeling or being sick is usually well controlled with anti sickness medicines. Avoiding fatty or fried foods, eating small meals and snacks, drinking plenty of water, and relaxation techniques can all help.
It is important to take anti sickness medicines as prescribed even if you don’t feel sick. It is easier to prevent sickness rather than treating it once it has started.
Tummy (abdominal) pain
Tell your treatment team if you have this. They can check the cause and give you medicine to help.
Indigestion or heartburn
Contact your doctor or pharmacist if you have indigestion or heartburn. They can prescribe medicines to help.
High blood pressure
Tell your doctor or nurse if you have headaches, nosebleeds, blurred or double vision or shortness of breath. Your nurse will check your blood pressure regularly.
Occasional side effects
These side effects happen in between 1 and 10 out of every 100 people (between 1 and 10%). You might have on or more of them. They include:
- swelling of your hands and legs due to a build up of fluid (oedema)
- headaches or a throbbing pain in the front or side of your head (migraine)
- leg cramps
- a skin rash
- gallstones – these can sometimes cause severe and sudden tummy pain
- breast tenderness or pain that is usually mild
- an increase in the size of your breasts
Rare side effects
These side effects happen in fewer than 1 in 100 people (fewer than 1%). You might have one or more of them. They include:
- blood clots in the legs, lungs or eyes can be life threatening; signs are pain, swelling and redness where the clot is. Feeling breathless can be a sign of a blood clot in the lung. Contact your advice line or doctor straight away if you have these.
- a stroke - symptoms can be a drooped face, numb or weak arms, slurred speech or not being able to speak
- bruising or bleeding due to a low number of platelets in the blood
- liver changes that usually go back once treatment finishes – you have regular blood tests to check this
Coping with side effects
We have more information about side effects and tips on how to cope with them.
What else do I need to know?
Other medicines, foods and drink
Cancer drugs can interact with some other medicines and herbal products. Tell your doctor or pharmacist about any medicines you are taking. This includes vitamins, herbal supplements and over the counter remedies.
Digoxin and warfarin
Tell you doctor if you are taking digoxin for your heart or warfarin to thin your blood. They might have to adjust the amount (dose) of these medicines.
If you are taking the drug cholestyramine to lower your cholesterol, let your doctor know. Raloxifene may not work as well.
This drug contains lactose (milk sugar). If you have an intolerance to lactose, contact your doctor before taking this medicine.
Pregnancy and contraception
This drug is only used for women who have been through the menopause. You should not take this medicine if you can still have a baby. This drug may harm a baby developing in the womb.
Talk to your doctor or nurse about effective contraception before starting treatment.
Treatment for other conditions
Always tell other doctors, nurses, pharmacists or dentists that you’re having this treatment if you need treatment for anything else, including teeth problems.
More information about this treatment
For further information about this treatment go to the electronic Medicines Compendium (eMC) website.
You can report any side effect you have to the Medicines Health and Regulatory Authority (MHRA) as part of their Yellow Card Scheme.