Factors related to the experience of menopausal symptoms in women prescribed tamoxifen

J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol. 2017 Sep;38(3):226-235. doi: 10.1080/0167482X.2016.1216963. Epub 2016 Sep 1.


Introduction: Menopausal symptoms are frequent and severe in breast cancer survivors taking tamoxifen; however, treatment options are limited for these patients as hormonal replacement therapy is contraindicated. This study aimed to explore the experience and attribution of menopausal symptoms and identify factors related to the experience of menopausal symptoms in women taking tamoxifen.

Methods: Women who had been prescribed tamoxifen for a diagnosis of primary breast cancer were recruited from oncology clinics across England and from online advertisements. Seven hundred and forty women completed questionnaires assessing illness perceptions, social support, mood and symptom duration/severity.

Results: Eighty-four percent of women had experienced hot flushes and 80% experienced night sweats; of these, 60% experienced severe symptoms. Symptoms persisted throughout 5 years of treatment and were mainly attributed to tamoxifen. Logistic regressions showed that depressive symptoms, previous chemotherapy and being employed were associated with increased odds of hot flush or night sweat prevalence. Symptom severity was associated with depression, being employed and attributing symptoms to tamoxifen.

Discussion: These findings have clinical implications in terms of targeting women who are more at risk and offering non-hormonal treatment options, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, to help women to develop self-management strategies for coping with menopausal symptoms.

Keywords: Health psychology; menopause; psycho-oncology.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Cancer Survivors* / psychology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Employment / psychology*
  • England
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hot Flashes / chemically induced*
  • Humans
  • Menopause*
  • Middle Aged
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sweating / drug effects*
  • Tamoxifen / adverse effects*


  • Tamoxifen