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Home Magazine 2011-12 Summer Page 4 - Research

Page 4 2011-12 Summer

Jean Hailes research update

New research from Jean Hailes looks at the menopause experience of younger women who have been through breast cancer treatment.

Menopause with breast cancer treatmentTreatment such as chemotherapy or oophorectomy (removal of both ovaries) can induce menopause in over 80% of young women with breast cancer within the first year of diagnosis. According to Jean Hailes researchers, this side effect needs greater consideration by women and health professionals, in particular because women who experience chemically or surgically induced menopause (as opposed to those who reach menopause naturally) are more likely to have severe symptoms that interfere with their quality of life.

A Jean Hailes study, published in the journal ‘Menopause’, involved 114 women with breast cancer aged between 40-51 years and looked at the impacts of treatment on the menopause experience. The researchers found that the women were experiencing symptoms that affected their physical and emotional health, as well as their sexual function and body image. The most common symptoms were feeling tired/lacking energy (88%), loss of libido (87%) and hot flushes (83%).

Lead researcher Dr Padaphet Sayakhot is a gynaecologist and Monash Graduate Scholarship holder, currently completing her PhD through Monash University, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and the Jean Hailes Research Unit within the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine. “The symptoms women experienced were quite significant and impacted on their quality of life physically and emotionally,” she said.

Additional findings, to be published in ‘Climacteric’, indicated that many women felt they were inadequately informed about the likelihood of experiencing menopause and its symptoms at the time of cancer diagnosis.

“When younger women are diagnosed with breast cancer they are often not given information about menopause,” said Dr Sayakhot.

According to Jean Hailes research, 54% of women reported receiving information about menopause at the time of breast cancer diagnosis and only a quarter (26%) of these found the information regarding the long-term effects of menopause to be adequate.

Not surprisingly, the researchers found that women were increasingly turning to the internet as a source of health information, with 30% of women sourcing information about menopause online, compared to 19% from their general practitioner (GP) and 8% from their oncologist.

“It concerns me that women feel they have to use the internet for information because they are not getting that information from their GP or oncologist. If women are accessing reputable websites, that is OK. My concern is if they are finding information on less authoritative websites,” said Dr Sayakhot. 

Jean Hailes has produced educational resources for physicians and breast care nurses, designed to increase their understanding and awareness of menopause and related issues, and enable them to better support their patients going through menopause.

To view the resources, go to
 www.managingmenopause.org.au/health-professionals/cpd-menopause-breast-cancer.

The resource for physicians was developed with funding from the Royal Australian College of Physicians (RACP) and the resource for breast care nurses was made possible through financial support from the Polo Ralph Lauren Pink Pony Campaign seeding grant and the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre. On 1 July 2011, the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre (NBOCC) amalgamated with Cancer Australia to form a single national agency, Cancer Australia, to provide leadership in cancer control and improve outcomes for Australians affected by cancer. 

Content Updated November 2011

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