One of the most common diseases for women, especially those in menopause, is breast cancer. And one of the most common misconceptions is that hormone therapy is to be avoided at all costs.
In fact, using actual hormones (as opposed to synthetic progestin drugs) can not only help alleviate the unpleasant symptoms of menopause, they can reduce the chance of getting breast cancer.
Studies show that using actual hormones in hormone replacement therapy is associated with a slight reduction in breast cancer rates. And recently we have discovered that using testosterone for women in menopause not only substantially improves quality of life with no adverse effects, it also reduces the rates of breast cancer by up to 75%.
Breast cancer is broken up into stages. The higher the stage, the more likely the cancer will return. With conventional treatment, five-year survival rates are:
Stage 2, 355%
One study used testosterone pellets for women suffering from menopause symptoms and having breast cancer stages 0-4. The testosterone pellet, about the size of a grain of rice, is inserted under the skin with a local anesthetic. It lasts about three months, breaks down on its own, and the process is repeated.
In this study, presented at the 2010 Breast Cancer Symposium (Abstract 221 by Rebecca L. Glaser, M.D. FACS) they also used an estrogen blocker. The study followed about 70 women with breast cancer for nine years.
None of the women had recurrence of breast cancer with the testosterone and estrogen blocker implants. This is opposed to conventional therapy, which has anywhere from a 2-90% recurrence rate.
Dr. Glaser also reported on a 90-year-old woman who had a .5 cm², grade 2 breast tumor. The patient declined surgery and went on conventional medical therapy. Three pellets of testosterone were also placed surrounding the breast tumor with ultrasound guidance. Tamoxifen, the conventional breast cancer medication, was discontinued.
The results were remarkable: the tumor shrunk by some 3% per day, starting out larger than 5 cm² and, over 13 weeks, shrinking to 0.42 cm². That is a 90% reduction! (Menopause, 2014, Vol. 21, No. 6)
A paper in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology evaluated numerous other studies and found that estrogen replacement therapy after diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer did not increase – nor reduce – the rate of recurrence. (AJOG, August 2002, Vol. 187, No. 2)
Menopause and perimenopause have considerable quality-of-life symptoms. Breast cancer is a fact of life for millions of women. And they often go together — women are more likely to get breast cancer as they age and, of course, more likely to be in menopause.
Besides unpleasant symptoms (see box), menopause brings increasing rates of weight gain, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other concerns. Breast cancer survivors may still suffer from these symptoms.
Studies have shown that hormone replacement, particularly using actual hormones rather than synthetic ones, actually reduces the risk of developing breast cancer. It also considerably reduces the rate of heart disease and heart attacks, protects against obesity and helps with weight loss, and improves sexuality and quality of life.
If you had breast cancer and are concerned about the symptoms associated with menopause and aging, remember that testosterone remains an option. You can improve your quality of life, improve symptoms associated with menopause, and lower your risk of breast cancer recurrence.
Interested in learning more? Please call 586-992-8300 to set up an appointment with one of our staff members.
Dr. Charles Mok