1. What is exemestane? 
2. How does exemestane work?
3. Who it is suitable for
4. Side effects of exemestane
5. When exemestane is given
6. How long will I have to take it?
7. How it is taken 
8. Taking exemestane with other drugs

1. What is exemestane? 

Exemestane is a drug used to treat breast cancer in women who have gone through the menopause.  

You may also hear it called Aromasin, which is its best-known brand name. There are a number of other brands of exemestane, all of which contain the same dose of the drug. 

Men with breast cancer may be given exemestane, although another drug called tamoxifen is more commonly used. 

2. How does exemestane work? 

Exemestane works by reducing the amount of oestrogen made in the body. 

Some breast cancers are stimulated to grow by the hormone oestrogen. These are known as oestrogen receptor positive or ER+ breast cancers.

Exemestane belongs to a group of drugs called aromatase inhibitors.

3. Who it is suitable for

Exemestane is suitable for women who have been through the menopause and whose breast cancer is oestrogen receptor positive.

Sometimes exemestane is given alongside a drug called goserelin (Zoladex) to women who haven’t yet been through the menopause.  

If your cancer is hormone receptor negative, then exemestane will not be of any benefit.

4. Side effects of exemestane

Find out more about the side effects of exemestane.

5. When exemestane is given

Exemestane is usually given after surgery to reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back or spreading.

If you’re having chemotherapy or radiotherapy, your specialist will tell you when it’s best to start exemestane.  

Occasionally, exemestane may be used as the first treatment for breast cancer, for example when surgery isn’t appropriate or needs to be delayed. It’s sometimes given before surgery to shrink a large breast cancer. 

Exemestane can also be used to treat breast cancer that has come back (recurrence). It can also be given to treat breast cancer that has spread to another part of the body (secondary breast cancer), when it’s often given alongside another drug.  

6. How long will I have to take it? 

This will depend on your individual circumstances, but exemestane is usually taken for five to ten years.

Some people start taking exemestane after a few years of taking the hormone therapy drug tamoxifen.  

If you’re taking exemestane to treat breast cancer that has come back or spread to another part of the body, you’ll usually take it for as long as it’s keeping the cancer under control.

Stopping exemestane

Your treatment team will tell you when to stop taking exemestane. You won’t need to stop taking it gradually. 

Some people worry about stopping their treatment, but there’s evidence that exemestane continues to reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back for many years after you stop taking it.

However, not taking the drug for the recommended time may increase the risk of your breast cancer coming back. If you’re thinking about stopping taking exemestane for any reason, talk to your specialist first. Sometimes it may be possible to change to another hormone tablet.

Hormone therapy is a very common treatment for secondary breast cancer and many people take it for a long time. If exemestane stops working, your specialist may prescribe another hormone therapy. 

If you have any worries or questions about taking or stopping exemestane, you can call us free on 0808 800 6000 to talk through your concerns.

7. How it’s taken

Exemestane is taken as a tablet once a day, with or without food. It’s best to take it at the same time every day. 

If you miss a dose, you don’t need to take an extra dose the next day. The level of drug in your body will remain high enough from the day before.

8. Taking exemestane with other drugs  

If you’re taking any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicines, check with your treatment team or pharmacist if you can take these with exemestane.

Do not take other drugs containing oestrogen, such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT), while you’re taking exemestane as this may interfere with its effectiveness.  

Talk to your specialist, pharmacist or GP about any complementary therapies, herbal remedies or supplements you want to use before you start using them.

Last reviewed: February 2019
Next planned review begins 2021

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