Ending Periods Helps Cancer Survival
Breast Cancer and Menstruation Link: Chemo Patients More Apt to Survive if Periods Stop
Dec. 15, 2006 — Breast cancerchemotherapy can cause menstruation to cease, and now a study shows that’s a good thing.
Austrian researchers found women live longer and have fewer relapses if their periods stop.
In fact, women who continue to have a period despite chemotherapy might benefit from additional treatment to lower their levels of cancer-fueling estrogen, says Michael Gnant, MD, a breast cancer specialist at the Medical University of Vienna.
Changes Caused By Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy causes changes to the ovaries which may lead to changes to periods. Although chemotherapy destroys cancer cells it can also affect any cells that grow and divide rapidly this includes cells in the ovaries. In turn this can affect the functioning of the ovaries, reducing the number and quality of eggs.
What happens to a womans periods during chemotherapy depends on the type of drugs used, the dose given and the age of the woman having treatment. Some women continue to have periods throughout treatment but its common for periods to stop during chemotherapy and this can be temporary or permanent. They may restart again at the end of treatment or even months or years later again this can depend on age. The younger someone is the more likely it is their periods will return. You can read about other womens experiences by visiting our Forum.
Many younger women with breast cancer believe the return of their periods means they may be able to have children if they want to. However, this isnt necessarily the case. The reverse is also true, just because periods are absent or stop/start doesnt mean you cant get pregnant, so contraception will be important unless youre planning for a baby.
How Does A Missed Period Affect Your Risk For Ovarian Cancer
Most of the time, missed periods are not a cause for concern. Pregnancy, stress, strenuous exercise, low body fat, or hormonal imbalances can cause menstrual irregularities.
In rare cases, irregular periods are a sign of something serious. They may also increase your risk of ovarian cancer.
A 2016 study found that women with a history of menstrual irregularities were twice as likely to develop ovarian cancer. This risk increases with age.
Irregular or missed periods arent the most common symptom of ovarian cancer. There are other more common symptoms.
Contact your doctor if youre concerned about ovarian cancer, have a family history of cancer, or notice anything different in your monthly cycle.
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Estrogen Therapy And Cancer Risk
In women who still have a uterus, using systemic ET has been shown to increase the risk of endometrial cancer . The risk remains higher than average even after ET is no longer used. Although most studies that showed an increased risk were of women taking estrogen as a pill, women using a patch or high-dose vaginal ring can also expect to have an increased risk of endometrial cancer.
Because of this increased cancer risk, women who have gone through menopause and who still have a uterus are given a progestin along with estrogen. Studies have shown that EPT does not increase the risk for endometrial cancer.
Long-term use of vaginal creams, rings, or tablets containing topical estrogen doses may also increase the levels of estrogen in the body. Its not clear if this leads to health risks, but the amounts of hormone are much smaller than systemic therapies.
ET is not linked to a higher risk of breast cancer. In fact, certain groups of women taking ET, such as women who had no family history of breast cancer and those who had no history of benign breast disease, had a slightly lower risk of breast cancer.
The WHI study of ET did not report any results about ovarian cancer.
To put the risk into numbers, if 1,000 women who were 50 years old took estrogen for menopause for 5 years, one extra ovarian cancer would be expected to develop.
ET does not seem to have any effect on the risk of lung cancer.
What Are The Chances Of Breast Cancer Returning
Each persons risk of breast cancer recurrence is different and depends on many factors, such as the size, type, grade and features of the cancer and whether the lymph nodes were affected.
Your treatment team can tell you more about your individual risk of recurrence if you want to know this.
The risk of breast cancer recurring is higher in the first few years and reduces as time goes on.
However, recurrence can happen even many years after treatment, which is why its important to be breast and body aware, and report any changes to your treatment team or GP.
In the UK, the number of people surviving breast cancer has risen greatly over the past decade and most people diagnosed with primary breast cancer will not have a recurrence.
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What Is Ovarian Cancer
People with ovaries can develop tumors or cysts on their ovaries. Usually these are benign not cancerous and will stay in or on the ovaries.
Less commonly, ovarian tumors are cancerous. Some ovarian tumors cause abnormal vaginal bleeding or missed periods, but its unlikely to be the only symptom.
Read on to learn more about the link between a missed period and ovarian cancer.
Who Should Get Screened
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggest that females aged 5074 years who are at average risk of developing breast cancer should go for screening every 2 years.
Those aged 4049 years, particularly those with a higher risk of breast cancer, should speak to their doctor about the risks and benefits of undergoing regular screening.
Doctors tend to use a mammogram to screen people for breast cancer. A mammogram is a breast X-ray that can help detect breast cancer early on, before it starts to produce symptoms.
Other exams available for people at a higher risk of breast cancer include:
There are both risks and benefits associated with regularly screening for breast cancer. Many people conclude that the benefits outweigh the risks, but getting screened is a personal decision.
The risks of screening for breast cancer include:
- False positives: A false positive occurs when a test result falsely suggests that a person has cancer. False positives can prompt additional tests, which may cause anxiety and can be expensive and time consuming.
- Overtreatment: Some cancers are benign and do not go on to cause symptoms or other problems. Treating these types of cancers is called overtreatment, and it can lead to unnecessary side effects, expense, and anxiety.
- False negatives: A false negative occurs when a test result misses the presence of a cancer. False negatives can delay diagnosis and treatment.
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Why Am I Experiencing Sexual Side Effects With Breast Cancer
They may be treatment side effects. Many of the treatments that we use for breast cancer put women into menopause or intensify menopausal symptoms if theyve already gone through it, says Sharon Bober, PhD, director of the Sexual Health Program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Thats because these treatments block estrogen, resulting in:
- Vaginal dryness
- Dampened enjoyment
- Pain during sex
If youre experiencing sexual side effects that are interfering with intimacy, communicate openly with your partner. If youve never had to talk about your sex life before, you may not be sure how to start the conversation. Take your time and say to your partner, I know things arent the way that they used to be. Can we find some time to talk about it? Bober says.
Figure out what challenges you want to work on, and look at them from a whole-body perspective, she says.
Does Breast Cancer Affect Your Hormones
Some types of breast cancer are affected by hormones, like estrogen and progesterone. The breast cancer cells have receptors that attach to estrogen and progesterone, which helps them grow. Treatments that stop these hormones from attaching to these receptors are called hormone or endocrine therapy.
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Integrative Subtypes And Late Recurrence
Researchers recently developed a model to identify 11 integrative subtypes of breast cancer with different risks and timing of recurrence, according to the findings of a 2019 study published online in Nature.
Four integrative subtypes were identified that were associated with a high risk of late recurrence . Altogether, these four subtypes accounted for roughly 26% of breast cancers that were estrogen receptor-positive and HER2 negative.
These subtypes included tumors that had an enriched copy number alterations in genes that are thought to drive the growth of cancer , including:
They were also able to identify a subgroup of triple-negative tumors that were unlikely to recur after five years as well as a subgroup in which people continue to be at risk of late recurrence. A Breast Cancer Recurrence Calculator including integrative subtypes has been developed but, at the current time, this is meant for research purposes alone.
Periods And Breast Cancer Treatment
Theres been a lot of talk about periods in the Breast Cancer Care office of late. One of our London Marathon runners, Kiran Gandhi, chose to run the race without any sanitary protection to highlight that menstruation can still be a taboo subject.
However, while this story was gathering headline and opinion pieces, we were contacted by someone who was concerned about her periods being erratic during chemotherapy treatment. It can often be a surprise to people outside the breast cancer world that a cancer in the breast can cause so many side effects beyond it, due to the nature of treatment.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Ovarian Cancer
Many people will not have symptoms in the early stages of ovarian cancer.
When symptoms do occur, they may be vague and mild, indicating other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome . This can lead to a delay in diagnosis and treatments.
Make an appointment with your doctor or gynecologist if the following symptoms occur more than 12 times per month:
- feeling full quickly when you eat
- urinary changes, including the need to go frequently
of people who get treatment for ovarian cancer in the early stages live longer than 5 years after diagnosis.
But only about 20 percent of ovarian cancers are discovered at an early stage. This may be because many of the symptoms are vague and nonspecific, and thus often ignored or attributed to other causes.
During your appointment, your doctor may conduct a pelvic exam and a Pap smear to check for a variety of issues. They will perform an exam to feel your ovaries for size, shape, and consistency.
Although preventive tests like pelvic exams and Pap smears can help guide your doctor toward a diagnosis, a surgical approach is sometimes needed to confirm whether you have ovarian cancer.
Unconventional Signs Of Breast Cancer That You Must Know About
Jenny Hills, Nutritionist and Medical Writer Health
Breast cancer is one of the most common forms of the disease in the world that affects both men and women. The chances of getting the disease increase as you age, but detecting it at an early stage could be life saving. In this article I am going to discuss uncommon signs and symptoms of breast cancer that many people overlook.
The majority of breast cancer cases are diagnosed in people who are aged 40 and up, but in the instances where it affects younger people it tends to be more aggressive. This makes early detection an essential part of treating the disease within its onset stages.
Its important to have a firm grasp of bodily knowledge, as the earliest stages of breast cancer usually come without pain. The most common indicator is the discovery of a lump, but cancer goes through multiple progressive stages before these lumps form. It may sometimes take years for lumps to develop, so people shouldnt rely solely on lumps to indicate breast cancer, as they usually indicate an already progressive disease.
There are several signs that the American Cancer Society claim should be analyzed closely by a specialist. It is important to remember that these signs arent definitive proof of existing breast cancer. They can sometimes indicate smaller hormonal or health factors, so visiting an expert can clear any ambiguity. Some of the more obvious signs are:
- Change in breast structure
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Your Period Has Slowed Or Stopped Continued
For similar reasons, women who have eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa can also stop getting their period. Severely restricting the amount of calories you eat suppresses the release of hormones your body needs for ovulation.
Other possible causes of missed periods include:
- Thyroid or pituitary gland disorders
- Disorder of the hypothalamus
- Oral contraceptives
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome and other hormone imbalances
- Ovarian failure
- Disease of the uterus
Lisa Fought Breast Cancer For 8 Years Heres Her Story
In contrast to the common belief that surviving for five years after cancer treatment is equivalent to a cure, with hormone-sensitive breast tumors there is a steady rate of recurrence risk for at least 20 years after the original diagnosis, even with very small node-negative tumors.
Overall, the chance that an estrogen receptor-positive tumor will recur between five years and 20 years after diagnosis ranges from 10% to over 41%, and people with these tumors remain at risk for the remainder of their lives.
An awareness of the risk of late recurrence is important for a number of reasons. People are often shocked to learn that their breast cancer has come back after say, 15 years, and loved ones who don’t understand this risk are often less likely to be supportive as you cope with the fear of recurrence.
While chemotherapy has little effect on the risk of late recurrence hormonal therapy does, and estimating this risk may help determine who should receive extended hormonal therapy . Finally, late recurrences can differ from early relapse with regard to sites of metastases and survival.
Factors such as initial tumor size, number of nodes involved, and receptor status play into the risk of late recurrence, but tumor biology appears to have the greatest effect, and research is actively looking for ways to look at gene expression and copy number to predict risk.
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Cancer Tumors Versus Cysts And Fibroadenomas
Cysts, which are fluid-filled lumps, are common in the breast and are benign. They form when fluid builds up inside breast glands, and tend to be smooth or round. Fibroadenomas, which are benign tumors made up of glandular and connective breast tissue, are usually smooth and firm or rubbery to the touch. Both of these conditions tend to affect younger women fibroadenomas are most common in women in their 20s and 30s, and cysts are most common in women under 40.
Despite these common descriptions, it is impossible to tell by touch whether a lump is cancer.
Types Of Breast Cancer
There are two categories that reflect the nature of breast cancer:
- Noninvasive cancer is cancer that hasnt spread from the original tissue. This is referred to as stage 0.
- Invasive cancer is cancer thats spread to surrounding tissues. These are categorized as stages 1, 2, 3, or 4.
The tissue affected determines the type of cancer:
- Ductal carcinoma is a cancer that forms in the lining of the milk ducts. This is the most common type of breast cancer.
- Lobular carcinoma is cancer in the lobules of the breast. The lobules are where milk is produced.
- Sarcoma is cancer in the breasts connective tissue. This is a rare type of breast cancer.
When you visit your doctor with concerns about breast pain, tenderness, or a lump, there are common tests they might perform.
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What Counts As A Missed Period
To tell when a period is missed, it is important to understand the length of a menstrual cycle.
Typically, a persons cycle is between 24 and 38 days. The exact length varies for everyone and may change by a few days each month.
Knowing what is normal for a person can help them spot irregular or missed periods.
Irregular periods occur when the menstrual cycle length varies by more than 79 days. A missed period is when no bleeding happens for a whole menstrual cycle.
Missing a period does not cause ovarian cancer. However, there may be a link between missing periods and an increased risk of developing the disease.
A 2016 study revealed that women with irregular menstrual cycles may have a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer. The researchers found that this risk increased with age.
Women with irregular menstrual cycles were twice as likely to have developed ovarian cancer by age 70 than women with regular menstrual cycles.
Understanding why the risk of developing ovarian cancer may increase for people with irregular periods will require more research, as scientists have yet to find a causal link.
The ACS state that a person should see a doctor if they experience common symptoms of ovarian cancer more than 12 times in a month.
Doctors will typically begin a diagnosis by asking about an individuals symptoms and medical history. They may then examine the pelvis.
If a doctor suspects ovarian cancer, they may order one or more tests. These can include:
What Is Hormone Receptor
Breast cancer tumors that are hormone receptor-positive need the hormones estrogen or progesterone to grow. Approximately 75% of breast cancers are hormone-positive in post-menopausal patients. Your healthcare provider will perform a biopsy and laboratory testing to determine the cancer type and most effective treatment.
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