Estrogen deficiency symptom management in breast cancer survivors in the changing context of menopausal hormone therapy.Semin Oncol 2003; 30(6):776-88SO
Vasomotor symptoms associated with menopause or cancer therapies represent an increasingly common problem for breast cancer survivors given the increasing use of ovarian suppression in premenopausal women and aromatase inhibitors in postmenopausal women. Although estrogen and/or progestin effectively reduce vasomotor symptoms, a recent Women's Health Initiative (WHI) randomized trial identified an unfavorable risk/benefit balance on life-threatening diseases, including increased breast cancer, for combined estrogen plus progestin use in otherwise healthy postmenopausal women. As a result, use of menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) for chronic disease risk reduction in any population cannot be supported. In addition, the safety of estrogen and/or progestin regarding risk of recurrence or new cancer development in breast cancer survivors has not been demonstrated. For vasomotor symptoms in this population, neuroendocrine agents, including selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or gabapentin, are reasonable choices with substantial impact on hot flashes and moderate toxicity profiles. When rigorously evaluated, most other nonhormonal pharmacologic and herbal interventions have been found to have either modest or no efficacy and/or limiting toxicity. In breast cancer survivors even local vulvar/vaginal symptoms are best treated by nonhormone products since drug absorption with systemic estrogen-like effects has been reported. Estrogen/progestin use in breast cancer survivors should be considered only for women with severe vasomotor symptoms refractory to other approaches after extensive informed decision-making including review of current Food and Drug Administration labeling concerns with use limited to the lowest dose and shortest duration possible.