2011 SGO News: Menopause Symptoms Common after Gynecologic Cancer

Most survivors of gynecologic cancers have menopausal symptoms, and at least one in four takes replacement hormones, results of the first study of its kind showed.
A survey of 544 gynecologic cancer survivors showed that 80% had one or more menopausal symptoms, investigators reported here at the Society of Gynecologic Oncology meeting.
And although 24% were on hormone therapy, it had a fairly minor impact, as more than three-quarters of them (78%) still had bothersome symptoms.
“Menopausal symptoms were associated with other health-related issues known to negatively impact quality of life,” Marilyn Huang, MD, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and colleagues concluded in a poster presentation.
“These results highlight the need to better acknowledge and define the utility of hormonal therapy in this population.”
Women who survive gynecologic cancers might be expected to have hormonal issues, largely as a consequence of treatment that leads to loss of ovarian function. However, Huang and colleagues found no studies in the medical literature documenting the frequency and nature of menopausal symptoms in gynecologic cancer survivors.
In an attempt to fill that informational void, investigators surveyed a subset of patients treated for gynecologic cancers from 1997 to 2007. The study criteria excluded women who had menstrual function or who were 55 or older at the time of the survey.  The questionnaire elicited information about health issues and the women’s health concerns. The primary objective of the study was to collect descriptive information about hormone-related challenges faced by gynecologic cancer survivors.
The most commonly reported menopausal symptoms were:
  • Hot flashes, 54%
  • Vaginal dryness, 48%
  • Mood swings, 37%
  • Pain during intercourse, 33%
  • Vaginal atrophy, 19%
“The fact that the large majority of patients reported menopausal symptoms shows that we have a lot of room for improvement in the way we deal with these symptoms in survivors of gynecologic cancers,” Huang said in an interview.
“Clinicians need to have a greater awareness of this issue, as more women are being diagnosed with these cancers at early stages, and many of the patients are fairly young at the time of diagnosis. This is an issue that can have a major impact on the quality of life in these women for a long time.”
Huang M, et al “Menopausal symptoms and hormone replacement use: The gynecologic cancer survivors’ perspective” SGO 2011; Abstract 189.
Adapted from MedPage Today.

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