October 1, 2021

Life After Breast Cancer

Congratulations! You have made it through the wilderness and survived breast cancer. You have lots to celebrate and be thankful for, but your life will never be the same. You may have a renewed sense of faith and gratitude as well as strengthened relationships with friends and family. You may even have a new medication regimen like tamoxifen or other hormonal therapies.

You may also suffer from long-term or even lifelong side effects of treatment. There may be medications for other conditions that are no longer options for you to take because you have had breast cancer. Take menopause for example.

Did you know about 80% of women diagnosed with breast cancer each year are ages 45 or older? Since the average age of menopause is 51, it’s safe to say the vast majority of breast cancer survivors will experience menopause. Some pre-menopausal women have menopause symptoms as a result of chemotherapy or from hormone-therapy drugs used to treat breast cancer, such as tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors. However, traditional menopausal hormone replacement therapy is not recommended for someone who has had breast cancer.

The most common menopausal symptoms that women who’ve had breast cancer struggle with include vaginal pain and dryness as well as hot flashes and night sweats.

Medications such as vitamin A, E, and D used vaginally can help with vaginal dryness. A low-dose vaginal estriol may also be an option because estriol has been shown to have a positive effect on vaginal mucosa without elevating blood serum hormone levels*. For hot flashes and night sweats, some physicians like to use a medication combination called bellergal, but like the options mentioned above, it must be compounded because it is no longer commercially available.

Your compounding pharmacist can work with you and your physician to come up with the best treatment option to address your menopause symptoms, even after breast cancer. Because life continues after breast cancer, and so should the woman parts of you.