Objective: The aim of this study was to describe the partners’ perceptions, understanding, and personal experiences of early menopause and menopausal therapy in women with breast cancer.
Methods: A questionnaire study was completed by 50 partners of women with diagnoses of breast cancer, recruited via outpatient clinics and the community. Descriptive statistics and χ2 tests were applied.
Results: Most (68%) of the partners perceived hot flushes as the meaning of menopause. Most (60%) partners perceived that loss of sexuality was the key problem/fears about being menopausal. Partners perceived that exercise (72%) and reducing stress (64%) were most effective in alleviating symptoms of menopause. Most partners reported that they did not understand the risks/benefits of hormone therapy (50%), bioidentical hormones (90%), and herbal therapies (84%). The general practitioner was considered the best source of information on menopause (68%). Partners expected menopause to affect a women’s everyday life and relationships with family and partner and, particularly, to cause intermittent stress on the relationship (66%) and to decrease libido or sexual interest (64%). Forty-four percent of partners reported that there was some difficulty in communication/discussion about menopause with family and partners.
Conclusions: This pilot study highlights (1) the lack of understanding of menopause and menopausal therapies that partners of women with breast cancer have, (2) the personal experience of having a female partner with breast cancer, and (3) the partners’ attitudes and responses toward menopause in women with breast cancer.
From the 1Jean Hailes Research Unit, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Clayton, Australia; 2Gynaecology and Obstetrics Department, Monash Medical Centre, Monash University, Clayton, Australia; 3Menopause Unit, Monash Medical Centre, Southern Health, Clayton, Australia; and 4Diabetes Unit, Monash Medical Centre, Southern Health, Clayton, Australia.
Received September 15, 2011; revised and accepted December 14, 2011.
Funding/support: This study was supported by a grant from the Victoria Cancer Agency Early Career Bench and Bedside Collaboration awards in 2009. Professor Helena Teede is a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) research fellowship holder, and Padaphet Sayakhot is a Monash Graduate Scholarship holder.
Financial disclosure/conflicts of interest: None reported.
Address correspondence to: Helena Teede, PhD, FRACP, MBBS, Jean Hailes Director Research, Jean Hailes Research Unit, School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Locked bag 29, Monash Medical Centre, Clayton Road, Clayton, Victoria 3168, Australia. E-mail: Helena.Teede@monash.edu