Diethylstilbestrol tablets

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Diethylstilbestrol tablets come in two strengths - 1 mg for men and 5 mg for women. Each time you collect a prescription, check that you have been given the correct strength for you.

Side-effects of the treatment include feeling sick, swollen feet and ankles and an increased risk of blood clots. Impotence and breast enlargement can occur in men.
Type of medicineAn oestrogen
Used forProstate cancer in men; breast cancer in women
Available asTablets

Diethylstilbestrol is an oestrogen hormone treatment which helps to control the symptoms of some cancers.

It is sometimes used to treat prostate cancer, particularly if other therapies are not suitable. It is also occasionally used in women to treat breast cancer (providing you have been through the menopause).

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine can only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking diethylstilbestrol it is important that your doctor knows:

  • If you have a heart condition or any problems with your blood vessels.
  • If you have any problems with the way your liver works.
  • If it is for breast cancer and you have not been through the menopause. This is because diethylstilbestrol must not be taken by a woman who could become pregnant.
  • If you are taking any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.
  • Before you start the treatment, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from inside the pack. It will give you more information about diethylstilbestrol, and will also provide you with a full list of the side-effects which you could experience from taking it.
  • Take diethylstilbestrol exactly as your doctor tells you to. Your doctor or pharmacist will tell you how many tablets to take a day, and these directions will also be printed on the label of the pack of tablets to remind you about what you have been told. As a guide, it is usual for men to take 1-3 mg daily (one, two or three 1 mg tablets), and for women to take 10-20 mg daily (two, three or four 5 mg tablets).
  • You can take the tablets either with or without food. Try to take your doses at the same time of day each day, as this will help you to remember to take your doses regularly.
  • If you forget to take a dose, take it as soon as you remember. If you do not remember until the following day, leave out the forgotten dose from the previous day and take the dose that is due as normal. Do not take two doses at the same time to make up for a missed dose.
  • Try to keep your regular appointments with your doctor. This is so your doctor can check on your progress.
  • If you are having an operation or any dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment that you are taking diethylstilbestrol.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. The table below contains some of the most common ones associated with diethylstilbestrol. You will find a full list in the manufacturer's information leaflet supplied with your medicine. The unwanted effects often improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following continue or become troublesome.

Diethylstilbestrol side-effectsWhat can I do if I experience this?
Feeling sickStick to simple foods - avoid rich or spicy meals. It may help to take your tablets after a meal
Swollen feet and anklesPut your feet up whenever possible. Let your doctor know if this becomes troublesome
An increased risk of blood clots, impotence, breast enlargement (in men), bone pain (in women), withdrawal bleeding (in women), yellowing of the whites of your eyes or skin (jaundice)Your doctor will discuss these with you before you start treatment

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to the tablets, speak with your doctor or pharmacist for further advice.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

Never take more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that you or someone else might have taken an overdose of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital at once. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.

If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are suitable to take with your other medicines.

This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.

Do not keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.

If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • British National Formulary; 70th Edition (Sep 2015) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Adrian Bonsall
Document ID:
3743 (v24)
Last Checked:
24/03/2016
Next Review:
24/03/2019
The Information Standard - certified member

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