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Diethylstilbestrol tablets

Diethylstilbestrol can be taken by both men and women. As a guide the usual dose for men is 1-3 mg daily, and for women it is 10-20 mg daily. Follow your doctor's instructions carefully.

Side-effects of the treatment include feeling sick (nausea), swollen feet and ankles and an increased risk of blood clots. Impotence and breast enlargement can occur in men.

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About diethylstilbestrol

Type of medicine

An oestrogen

Used for

Prostate cancer in men; breast cancer in women

Available as


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).

Before taking diethylstilbestrol

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, as well as herbal and complementary medicines.

  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine.

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How to take diethylstilbestrol

  • 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, and for women to take 10-20 mg daily.

  • 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.

Getting the most from your treatment

  • 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.

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Can diethylstilbestrol cause problems?

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-effects

What can I do if I experience this?

Feeling sick (nausea)

Stick to simple foods - avoid rich or spicy meals. It may help to take your tablets after a meal

Swollen feet and ankles

Put 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.

How to store diethylstilbestrol

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.

  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.

Important information about all medicines

Important information about all medicines

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.

Report side effects to a medicine or vaccine

If you experience side effects, you can report them online through the Yellow Card website.

Further reading and references

Article history

The information on this page is written and peer reviewed by qualified clinicians.

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