Background: Data from randomized trials in postmenopausal women receiving endocrine therapy for breast cancer would suggest that the incidence of significant urogenital symptoms is around 40%. As there are inherent reporting biases associated with clinical trials, we sought to assess the prevalence, severity, and effect of urogenital side effects of endocrine therapy in the non-trial setting.
Patients and methods: A cross-sectional survey study was undertaken and questionnaires used to assess vulvovaginal and urinary tract symptoms in a group of postmenopausal women receiving endocrine therapy for breast cancer.
Results: A total of 251 women were surveyed. Sixty-three percent (158) reported urogenital symptoms. Vaginal dryness was the most common vaginal symptom, occurring in 121 women (48%). This was rated as severe or very severe in 56 of 121 (46%). Thirty-one of 251 (12%) women experienced urinary symptoms. A total of 68 women (27%) had used some form of treatment for vaginal symptoms. Nine women (4%) had considered discontinuing treatment because of urogenital side effects.
Conclusion: Urogenital side effects are common and often severe in women receiving endocrine therapy for breast cancer. The prevalence in this study was 63%, which is higher than that reported in the clinical trial literature. Less than one third of patients had used some form of treatment for these symptoms. This highlights the need for increased recognition and management of the urogenital side effects of estrogen deprivation therapy and raises the concern of the risk of non-compliance with potentially curative adjuvant therapy.