Menopause symptoms worse in cancer survivors

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Posted July 19, 2013

Cancer survivors were twice as likely to experience severe menopausal symptoms compared to women who have not had cancer, a new study has found

The study was led by the University of Melbourne and the Royal Women’s Hospital Melbourne, with the King Edward Memorial Hospital and the University of Western Australia and was published in the journal Menopause overnight.

Lead author, Dr Jennifer Marino of the University of Melbourne and the Royal Women’s Hospital said the study was the biggest of its kind to assess the impact of menopausal symptoms on the quality of life of cancer survivors.

“Our study showed for the first time, that cancer survivors experienced more severe and frequent menopausal symptoms (such as hot flushes and night sweats) than patients who did not have cancer,” Dr Marino said.

More than 151,000 (around one in 25) women in Australia are cancer survivors with more than one third of those are breast cancer survivors.

Almost 1,000 cancer survivors (mostly breast cancer) and 155 non-cancer patients aged 40 to 60, who attended the Menopause Symptoms After Cancer Clinic at the King Edward Memorial Hospital in Western Australia, were surveyed to determine a range of factors including severity of menopausal symptoms, impact on quality of life and sexual function.

Cancer survivors had twice as many hot flushes (six compared with three in 24 hours) and were twice as likely to report severe or very severe flushes as non-cancer patients. More than 200 cancer survivors reported experiencing more than 10 flushes aday.

Interestingly, the mental health of cancer survivors appeared to be better than the non-cancerpatients.

“The study revealed the cancer survivors were less troubled by symptoms of anxiety anddepression than women attending the menopause service who had never had cancer,” Dr Marino said.

Senior author Professor Martha Hickey said menopausal symptoms were a frequent and distressing effect of cancer treatments in women.

“In women with hormone sensitive cancer such as breast cancer, effective treatments reduce estrogen levels and this commonly leads to menopausal symptoms,“ she said.

Source: University of Melbourne

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