We investigated the prevalence and severity of menopausal symptoms, nearly 6 years from diagnosis, in women who had not experienced recurrent breast cancer or a new primary breast cancer (active disease) and were no longer taking oral adjuvant endocrine therapy (OAET).
A total of 1,683 women recruited within 12 months of diagnosis with invasive breast cancer completed an enrollment questionnaire and five annual follow-up questionnaires. Only women who had never reported active disease and were not taking OAET at their fifth follow-up were included in the analysis. Women previously recruited to a study of sex steroid levels provided community control data. Menopausal symptoms were assessed with the Menopause-Specific Quality of Life Questionnaire (MenQOL).
Eight hundred forty-three women without active disease and not taking OAET completed the fifth follow-up questionnaire, on average, 5.8 years after diagnosis. Most had stage I (59.5%) and hormone receptor–positive disease (77.9%) at diagnosis and were postmenopausal (92.8%). Those aged 50 to 59 years were more likely to report any symptoms (P = 0.01) and more severe symptoms (P < 0.001) than older and younger women. There was no independent impact of chemotherapy on MenQOL vasomotor and sexual domain scores. Women with breast cancer had significantly higher vasomotor domain (P ≤ 0.002) and sexual domain (P ≤ 0.004) scores than community controls.
Vasomotor and sexual symptoms are highly prevalent in breast cancer survivors and are not simply a function of OAET or chemotherapy. Given the adverse impact of these symptoms, effective interventions are needed to alleviate them in women who have completed their breast cancer treatment.