Aromatase inhibitor induced musculoskeletal syndrome: a significant problem with limited treatment options

Janine M. Lombard, Nicholas Zdenkowski, Kathy Wells, Corinna Beckmore, Linda Reaby, John F Forbes, Jacquie Chirgwin

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22 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Aromatase inhibitor induced musculoskeletal syndrome is experienced by approximately half of women taking aromatase inhibitors, impairing quality of life and leading some to discontinue treatment. Evidence for effective treatments is lacking. We aimed to understand the manifestations and impact of this syndrome in the Australian breast cancer community, and strategies used for its management. Methods: A survey invitation was sent to 2390 members of the Breast Cancer Network Australia Review and Survey Group in April 2014. The online questionnaire included 45 questions covering demographics, aromatase inhibitor use, clinical manifestations and risk factors for the aromatase inhibitor musculoskeletal syndrome, reasons for treatment discontinuation and efficacy of interventions used. Results: Aromatase inhibitor induced musculoskeletal syndrome was reported by 302 (82 %) of 370 respondents. Twenty-seven percent had discontinued treatment for any reason and of these, 68 % discontinued because of the musculoskeletal syndrome. Eighty-one percent had used at least one intervention from the following three categories to manage the syndrome: doctor prescribed medications, over-the-counter/complementary medicines or alternative/non-drug therapies. Anti-inflammatories, paracetamol (acetaminophen) and yoga were most successful in relieving symptoms in each of the respective categories. Almost a third of respondents reported that one or more interventions helped prevent aromatase inhibitor discontinuation. However, approximately 20 % of respondents found no intervention effective in any category. Conclusion: We conclude that aromatase inhibitor induced musculoskeletal syndrome is a significant issue for Australian women and is an important reason for treatment discontinuation. Women use a variety of interventions to manage this syndrome; however, their efficacy appears limited.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2139-2146
Number of pages8
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016


  • Aromatase inhibitor
  • Arthralgia
  • Arthritis
  • Early breast cancer
  • Interventions
  • Myalgia

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