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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2006 Dec;1092:349-60.

Hormone replacement therapy in breast cancer survivors.

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Second Department of Obstetrics and Gynicology, Aretaieion Hospital, Medical School, University of Athens, Athens, Greece.


It is well known that women with breast cancer who undergo therapies beyond the surgical intervention (adjuvant chemotherapy, hormone therapy, or both) often suffer from the lack of estrogen, manifesting as climacteric symptoms in either treated premenopausal or postmenopausal women. Although HRT (hormone replacement therapy) is traditionally viewed as a contraindication in women with a history of breast cancer, more women are willing to receive HRT for symptom relief. No observational or retrospective study in breast cancer survivors (whether in pre- or postmenopausal women) has shown an increased risk of tumor recurrence or increased mortality associated with HRT use. Nevertheless, because these studies are retrospective and different in terms of lymph node status, estrogen receptor (ER) status, and type of HRT used, firm conclusions on potential HRT use cannot be safely drawn. The few prospective studies appear controversial possibly due to differences in the studies' design. A potential scheme for possible HRT use in selected breast cancer survivors with severe climacteric symptoms is suggested. The duration of HRT use is debatable because there is insufficient evidence at present. However, the available data suggest that 3-year and possibly 5-year HRT use may be safe. In summary, while HRT cannot currently be recommended as first-line therapy, it may still be of benefit in the management of selected early stage breast cancer survivors with refractory climacteric symptoms after a well-informed decision and an individualized risk benefit discussion.

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