By Lisa Chism, DNP, nurse practitioner at the High Risk Breast Clinic at the Alexander J. Walt Breast Center at Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center
As a nurse practitioner, I take care of new patients and evaluate new breast problems, patients at elevated risk for breast cancer, and breast cancer survivors. Recently, I began developing a clinic to take care of the menopausal symptoms of women with cancer, those who cannot go on hormonal replacement therapy or are at high risk for breast cancer. Those symptoms may include hot flashes or flushing, night and day sweats, urogenital symptoms such as incontinence, and weight gain, among other symptoms.
It’s estimated that 230,480 women would be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, according to the American Cancer Society, and that more than 50 percent of these women were ages 35-51, according to 2011 Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results data. That means that many women who were diagnosed with breast cancer were premenopausal.
As a result of their cancer treatments, many of these women will experience an induced menopause, which is much more abrupt than a natural menopause and associated with more symptoms, such as the ones mentioned above. For many women, the impact of breast cancer treatment-induced menopause through chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy and hormone treatments greatly impacts their quality of life.
Treating menopausal symptoms in women who have had (or are at risk for) hormone dependent cancers, such as breast, ovarian and uterine cancer, is somewhat of a specialty. Treatment options need to be tailored to their symptoms and may include less common therapies. This is the type of clinic that I am developing here at Karmanos so that women suffering from menopausal symptoms with hormone sensitive cancers will have someone who specializes in this type of care.
The types of therapies offered include medications, counseling regarding alternative therapies and education regarding how to deal with these symptoms to improve quality of life. I find it so rewarding to be able to help these women get through their cancer treatment by addressing their unique needs and symptoms associated with induced menopause. I am looking forward to the growth of this clinic and hope to help many women who come to us for their care.
For more information about the High Risk Breast Clinic and services for menopausal women undergoing cancer treatments, please call 1-800-KARMANOS (1-800-527-6266) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.