Menopausal symptoms in breast cancer survivors

Oncol Nurs Forum. 1999 Sep;26(8):1311-7.


Purpose/objectives: To examine the prevalence and severity of menopausal symptoms among breast cancer survivors and the relationship between menopausal symptoms and quality of life (QOL).

Design: Cross-sectional, descriptive.

Setting: Outpatient breast care center servicing a southeastern city and regional rural areas.

Sample: 114 postmenopausal breast cancer survivors with a mean age of 59 years (SD = 10; range = 36-83 years) who were a mean of 34.9 months postcompletion of surgery, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy (SD = 22; range = 4-116 months).

Methods: Telephone interviews were used to assess demographic variables, menopausal status (questions adapted from the Massachusetts Women's Health Study), menopausal symptoms (adapted from the Blatt Menopausal Index), and QOL (SF-12 Health Survey). Disease and treatment information was extracted from medical records and the state cancer registry.

Main research variables: Menopausal status, menopausal symptoms, and QOL.

Findings: The most commonly reported menopausal symptoms (joint pain (77%), feeling tired (75%), trouble sleeping (68%), and hot flashes (66%)) were also the most severe. More than 40% of breast cancer survivors who reported these symptoms rated them as "quite a bit" to "extremely" severe. The total number and severity of symptoms reported was significantly related to the number of years postmenopause but not to time postdiagnosis. Higher prevalence and severity of menopausal symptoms were related to lower physical and emotional QOL.

Conclusions: Menopausal symptoms appear to be a significant problem for breast cancer survivors.

Implications for nursing practice: Nurses can inform women that menopausal symptoms may be experienced following breast cancer treatment and that these symptoms may be more severe than those experienced by healthy women without cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Breast Neoplasms / nursing
  • Breast Neoplasms / rehabilitation*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Postmenopause* / physiology
  • Postmenopause* / psychology
  • Quality of Life*
  • United States