After cancer treatment, troublesome menopausal symptoms are common but poorly understood. Using standardized instruments, we measured differences in symptom nature, severity, impact on quality of life, and sexual function between cancer survivors and noncancer participants.
The Menopause Symptoms After Cancer Clinic operates within the general menopause service in a large women’s hospital, providing menopause advice and management to women with menopausal symptoms and a cancer history. Menopausal symptoms were recorded using the Greene Climacteric Scale, past-week symptoms were recorded using the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy breast cancer subscale and endocrine symptom subscale, and sexual symptoms were recorded using Fallowfield’s Sexual Activity Questionnaire.
Cancer survivors (n = 934) and noncancer participants (n = 155) did not significantly differ by age at menopause (46 y) or age at first clinic visit (51 y). Cancer survivors were more likely than noncancer participants to be severely troubled by vasomotor symptoms (hot flushes and night sweats; odds ratio, 1.71; 95% CI, 1.06-2.74) and reported more frequent (6.0 vs 3.1 in 24 h; P < 0.001) and more severe (P = 0.008) hot flushes. In contrast, cancer survivors were significantly less troubled by psychological and somatic symptoms and reported better quality of life than noncancer participants. Groups did not differ significantly in physical or functional well-being, gynecologic symptom severity, or sexual function.
Cancer survivors are more troubled by vasomotor symptoms than noncancer participants, but noncancer participants report greater psychological symptoms. Sexual function does not differ. An improved understanding of the nature and impact of menopause on cancer survivors can be used to direct management protocols.