Estrogen therapy in gynecological cancer survivors

Climacteric. 2013 Dec;16(6):611-7. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2013.806471. Epub 2013 Aug 16.

Abstract

Treatment of gynecological cancer has significant impact on a woman's quality of life because it commonly includes removal of the uterus and ovaries, both being the core of a woman's femininity, whilst irradiation and chemotherapy, be they as primary therapy or when indicated as postoperative adjuvant therapy, will lead to ablation of ovarian function if the ovaries had not been removed. This will lead to an acute onset of menopausal symptoms, which may be more debilitating than those occurring as a result of natural aging, and of which hot flushes, night sweats, insomnia, mood swings, vaginal dryness, decreased libido, malaise and a general feeling of apathy are the most common. About 25% of gynecological cancers will occur in pre- and perimenopausal women, a large percentage of whom will become menopausal as a result of their treatment. There are also the gynecological cancer survivors who are not rendered menopausal as a result of the treatment strategy but who will become menopausal because of natural aging. Concern among the medical attendants of these women is whether use of estrogen therapy or estrogen and progestogens for their menopausal symptoms will reactivate tumor deposits and therefore increase the rate of recurrence and, as a result, decrease overall survival among these women. Yet the data that are available do not support this concern. There are eight retrospective studies and only one randomized study that have analyzed outcome in endometrial cancer survivors who used hormone therapy after their surgery, whilst, among ovarian cancer survivors, there are four retrospective studies and one randomized study. The studies do suffer from small numbers and, although the studies pertaining to endometrial cancer analyze mostly women with early-stage disease, a number of the studies in both the endometrial and ovarian cancer survivors do have a sizeable follow-up. These studies seem to support that estrogen therapy after the treatment for gynecological cancer does not impact negatively on outcome in endometrial and ovarian cancer survivors and that estrogen therapy can be considered as a plausible therapeutic option in survivors who are debilitated by their menopausal symptoms. It is prudent not to offer estrogen therapy to survivors of endometrial stromal sarcoma and women with granulosa cell tumors of the ovaries. Vulval, vaginal and cervical cancers are not considered hormone-dependent and therefore estrogen therapy can be given.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy* / adverse effects
  • Estrogens / adverse effects
  • Estrogens / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Genital Neoplasms, Female / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Hysterectomy / adverse effects
  • Menopause, Premature*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / chemically induced*
  • Ovariectomy / adverse effects

Substances

  • Estrogens