(RxWiki News) Researchers are constantly looking for ways to ease the lasting side effects of chemotherapy, and they may have found help for younger breast cancer patients.
The researchers said that chemotherapy-induced menopause can make menopause symptoms much more intense.
"Tell your doctor if you're having menopausal symptoms."
This study was presented at a conference by Halle C.F. Moore, MD, of the Department of Solid Tumor Oncology at Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, OH.
The study looked at 257 premenopausal women under the age of 50 who had early-stage breast cancer.
Menopause is the final stage of menstruation and fertility for women. According to the Mayo Clinic, menopause is defined as the point when a woman stops having periods for 12 months. In the United States, the average age of menopause is 51.
For this study, 131 of the patients were selected to receive standard chemotherapy, while the remaining 126 patients received chemotherapy plus goserelin, a medication used during chemotherapy to temporarily shut down ovarian function by reducing the amount of estrogen production.
The researchers found that two years after chemotherapy, 20 percent of women receiving goserelin along with their chemotherapy had stopped menstruating or showed elevated levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), a sign that estrogen production has declined.
By comparison, 45 percent of the chemotherapy-only group had stopped menstruating or showed an increased level of FSH two years after chemotherapy.
The data showed that 89 percent of patients who received goserelin along with their chemotherapy showed no signs or symptoms of cancer after four years, while 78 percent of the chemotherapy-only patients were free of cancer.
The research team also found a 92 percent overall survival rate after four year for the patients who received goserelin, compared with 82 percent of the group that received only chemotherapy.
"We found that, in addition to reducing the risk of early menopause, and all of the symptoms that go along with menopause, goserelin was very safe and may even improve survival," said senior author Kathy Albain, MD, in a press release. "I think these findings are going to change our clinical practice."
The researchers noted that for many young women treated for breast cancer, early menopause is a serious and distressing side effect of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy-induced menopause often comes on suddenly, making the symptoms, such as hot flashes, much more intense.
This study was presented May 30 at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual meeting.
The research was funded in part by the National Cancer Institute.
The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.