Victims of breast cancer are being left to suffer with crippling menopause symptoms as many are told HRT will increase the chances of the disease returning, experts warn
- Breast cancer survivors told not to take HRT or it will increase chances of return
- Leading doctors say denying breast cancer survivors HRT is ‘cruel and ignorant’
- Thousands left struggling through symptoms using natural remedies or nothing
Breast cancer survivors are being left to suffer with crippling menopause symptoms because many are told that they can’t take HRT, experts have warned.
Women with a history of breast cancer are regularly told hormone replacement therapy is not an option because it will increase the chances of the disease returning.
It means thousands are left struggling through potentially debilitating symptoms using natural remedies or nothing at all.
But the fears are based on just one study and denying breast cancer survivors access to HRT is ‘cruel and ignorant’, according to leading doctors.
Women with a history of breast cancer are regularly told hormone replacement therapy is not an option because it will increase the chances of the disease returning
Medical oncologist Dr Avrum Bluming, who spent four years as a senior investigator for the National Cancer Institute, has extensively reviewed all medical evidence on the subject. Out of dozens of studies, only one found an increased risk of breast cancer returning in women taking HRT, he explained.
‘On the basis of one study, millions of women around the world are being denied HRT following a diagnosis of breast cancer,’ he said. ‘I’m not recommending that every woman should take HRT – but the decision has to be individualised.
‘It has to be discussed with the woman, and she must be made aware of the data on which the decision is being recommended so she can weigh up the risks. The woman must have the option of accepting or not accepting the physician’s advice, but we are not in that world yet.’ Dr Bluming, who has written a book on HRT and breast cancer, said it was ‘so sad’ women are being given advice based on ‘abject ignorance’, and that they should be able to weigh up the risks and benefits of treating their menopause symptoms.
His concerns were echoed by Michael Baum, a leading breast cancer specialist and professor emeritus of surgery at University College London.
‘I spent the second half of my career dealing with breast cancer, and I saw so many women who’d had breast cancer suffering with the menopause,’ he said.
‘The correct way to manage this is to involve the woman in decision-making.
‘There needs to be a trade-off between the risk of breast cancer coming back and the immediate improvement to a woman’s health. Anyone denying women HRT is cruel and ignorant.’
Meanwhile Dr Susannah Unsworth, a menopause specialist in the breast clinic at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, said: ‘There are a good number of women who do decide to use HRT despite having had breast cancer already. Being told they can’t have it – that’s not strictly true and I think, sadly, that might have made a lot of women who have had breast cancer feel like there’s nothing out there for them at all.
‘With breast cancer, traditionally, there’s a focus on just treating the cancer and making sure it doesn’t come back. But their quality of life is important too.’
As part of the Daily Mail’s campaign to ‘Fix the HRT Crisis’, we are calling for mandatory menopause training in medical schools and for women to be given information on the menopause at their NHS health check.