Non-drug treatments help alleviate symptoms of treatment-induced menopause in breast cancer patients

“We think that we have made an important step forward in improving the quality of life of these patients,” Dr. van Beurden will say. “Based on input from patients, we are now developing an internet-based version of the CBT programme. We hope that this will further increase the accessibility and convenience of the interventions and lead to more women benefiting from their results.”

Professor David Cameron, from the University of Edinburgh (Edinburgh, UK), and chair of EBCC-8 said: “Menopausal symptoms can often be an added burden of side effects for younger women undergoing treatment for breast cancer. This study is important as it offers evidence that there is a way to intervene to make this less of a problem for women, thus allowing them to get on with their lives after curative therapy for breast cancer.”

Breast cancer treatment often causes women to enter menopause prematurely. The change in hormone levels and estrogen depletion caused by stopping hormone replacement therapy or undergoing chemotherapy or hormonal therapy can trigger side effects commonly associated with menopause.

Although each woman reacts to therapy individually, certain side effects are common. We hope this information will provide you with useful tips to help you manage any side effects that you may be experiencing.

Before implementing these management strategies, please discuss your specific symptoms with your physician or nurse and ask any questions you may have. If you are seeing a complementary or alternative medicine practitioner, please let us know what you are using so we can incorporate the information into your care plan.

Sexual Difficulties
A lack of estrogen and testosterone can cause many side effects that interfere with sexual desire and function. A decreased libido (or sex drive) is common and many authors say this may be related to decreases in estrogen and testosterone levels.

Vaginal dryness often causes discomfort and irritation, vaginal discharge or infection and pain during sexual intercourse. Try using a non-prescription, water-based vaginal lubricant like Astroglide or K-Y Jelly to reduce pain during intercourse. Oil-based lubricants like Vaseline are not recommended. Over the counter products with scents, alcohol or other additives should also be avoided. Replens is a vaginal moisturizer that can help with dryness as well.

Talk with your doctor or nurse if you have questions about how to use these products. You may want to discuss products requiring a prescription — for example a topical ointment containing low dose testosterone or very low dose estrogen products - with your physician as well.

We have an informative sheet on “Sexuality and Cancer” which is a good resource. The booklet “Sexuality and Cancer: For the Woman Who Has Cancer and Her Partner,” by the American Cancer Society, is an excellent source of information as well.


[1] Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is an action-oriented form of psychosocial therapy and psycho-education that focuses on changing an individual’s thoughts (cognitive patterns) in order to change his or her behaviour and emotional state. In the current study, CBT was combined with relaxation techniques.

[2] The research was funded by the Dutch Cancer Society, the Integral Cancer Centre Amsterdam, the Pink Ribbon Foundation, and Polar Electro Nederland.

Abstract no: 199, Thursday 10.30 hrs, Proffered Paper session “Implications of Adjuvant Therapy and Toxicity”, Hall D


Mary Rice
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ECCO-the European CanCer Organisation

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