Also known as: Anastrozole
Altrol is approved to treat certain types of breast cancer in women who’ve gone through menopause.
What breast cancer is
Breast cancer develops when cells in your breast start to grow and multiply (make more cells) more quickly than usual. With most breast cancers, the abnormal cells are encouraged to grow by the hormone estrogen.
If your breast cancer is stimulated by hormones, such as estrogen, certain tests will show that the cancer cells have receptors (attachment sites) for those hormones. This type of breast cancer is called hormone receptor-positive (HR+).
HR+ cancers can be treated with hormone therapies that lower the estrogen level in your body. And because most breast cancer is HR+, hormone therapies are also sometimes used to treat breast cancer whose receptor status isn’t known.
What Altrol does
Altrol is a hormone therapy that’s used to treat certain forms of breast cancer. It’s a type of drug called an aromatase inhibitor. Altrol works by stopping (inhibiting) the action of an enzyme called aromatase. (Enzymes are certain proteins that help chemical reactions to happen inside your body.)
The aromatase enzyme makes estrogen out of steroid hormones in your body, such as testosterone. Aromatase is found in various tissues, including your brain, fat, and skin.
Before menopause, estrogen is mainly produced by your ovaries. And just a small amount is made by the aromatase enzyme. But after menopause, your ovaries stop producing estrogen. At that point, the aromatase enzyme is the main way that your body makes estrogen. (And in men, estrogen is also mainly produced by the aromatase enzyme.)
By stopping aromatase from working, Altrol lowers the amount of estrogen in your body. This helps to stop estrogen from encouraging breast cancer to grow and spread.
How long does it take to work?
Altrol will start working soon after you begin taking it. But you won’t be able to notice this. Your doctor may order different kinds of tests during your treatment to check and see if the drug is working for you.
The following information describes Altrol dosages that are commonly used or recommended. However, be sure to take the dosage your doctor prescribes for you. Your doctor will determine the best dosage to fit your needs.
Drug forms and strengths
Altrol comes as 1-mg tablets that are taken by mouth.
Dosage for breast cancer
The usual dosage of Altrol for breast cancer is one tablet taken once a day. It’s best to take your dose at the same time each day.
What if I miss a dose?
If you forget to take a dose of Altrol, take the missed dose as soon as you remember. However, if it’s almost time for your next dose, just skip the missed dose and take your next dose as usual. Don’t take two doses together to make up for a missed dose.
To help make sure that you don’t miss a dose, try setting a reminder on your phone. A medication timer may be useful, too.
Will I need to use this drug long term?
Altrol is meant to be used as a long-term treatment for breast cancer. If you and your doctor determine that Altrol is safe and effective for you, you’ll likely take it long term.
The length of time that you’ll take this drug depends on the type of cancer you’re using it to treat. Below we describe the typical length of time that Altrol is given. But to know for sure how long you should take Altrol, talk with your doctor.
For advanced breast cancer
If you’re taking Altrol to treat advanced breast cancer, you’ll usually take the drug for as long as your doctor feels this treatment is right for you. (With advanced breast cancer, the cancer has either spread to nearby areas or lymph nodes, called locally advanced breast cancer, or spread to other parts of your body, called metastatic breast cancer.)
For early breast cancer
If you’re taking Altrol as adjuvant treatment of early breast cancer, you’ll usually take the drug for at least 5 years. Adjuvant treatment is used to lower the risk of your breast cancer coming back or spreading after it’s already been treated with surgery. (With early breast cancer, the cancer hasn’t spread out of either your breast or the lymph nodes in your armpit.)
It’s not currently known if Altrol should be continued after these 5 years. And if so, it’s not known for how long after the first 5 years it should be taken.
Some studies found that breast cancer is less likely to come back if an aromatase inhibitor is taken for an additional 5 years after the first 5 years of adjuvant therapy. (Aromatase inhibitors are a class of medications.) With this approach to treatment, the drug would be taken for a total of 10 years. However, other studies didn’t show a benefit for extending the treatment beyond 5 the usual years.
In addition, one recent study found that taking Altrol for a total of 10 years didn’t provide any more benefit than taking it for a total of 7 years.
How long you take Altrol for early breast cancer will depend on how likely your breast cancer is to come back. It will also depend on your risk of side effects from treatment.
Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.
Store between 20 and 25 degrees C (68 and 77 degrees F) away from moisture and heat. Throw away any unused medicine after the expiration date. Keep out of the reach of children in a container that small children cannot open.