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Lancet Oncol. 2005 Sep;6(9):687-95.

Management of menopausal symptoms in patients with breast cancer: an evidence-based approach.

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  • 1School of Women's and Infants Health, King Edward Memorial Hospital, Perth, WA, Australia.


Increasing numbers of women have menopausal symptoms after treatment for breast cancer. These symptoms can result directly from cancer treatments (such as oophorectomy, ovarian suppression, chemotherapy-induced ovarian failure, and antioestrogens), as a spontaneous event, or after discontinuation of hormone-replacement therapy. The onset of menopausal symptoms after treatment for breast cancer can have a long-lasting effect on quality of life, body image, sexual function, and self esteem. Hormone-replacement therapy that contains oestrogen is the most effective treatment for menopausal symptoms in healthy women. However, evidence from one randomised controlled trial suggests that use of hormone replacement therapy after breast cancer raises the risk of recurrence and of new primary breast cancer. As the incidence of breast cancer increases and survival continues to improve, the number of women with menopausal symptoms will probably rise. Safe and effective non-hormonal treatments for severe menopausal symptoms after breast cancer are urgently needed. Few studies have addressed the management of menopausal symptoms after breast cancer, and the quality of studies is generally poor. Progestagens, and selective inhibitors of serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake seem to offer reasonable symptom palliation, but the long-term effectiveness and safety of these preparations is not known. We propose that the management of menopausal symptoms in patients with a history of cancer requires a patient-centred, but multidisciplinary, approach.

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