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Hormone Therapy Linked to Poor Sexual Outcomes in Women with Breast Cancer

Hormone Therapy Linked to Poor Sexual Outcomes in Women with Breast CancerWomen who undergo hormone therapy (also called endocrine therapy) to treat breast cancer often face sexual problems, including vaginal dryness and painful intercourse, according to a recent study.

About two-thirds of breast cancers are hormone receptor-positive. This means that that the cancer cells have receptors that attach to the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These hormones feed the cancer cells and helps them spread. Hormone therapy aims to reduce the amount of hormones available to the cancer cells so that they have less fuel to work with. This may be accomplished in several ways:

  • Tamoxifen. This drug stops hormones and receptors from connecting.
  • Aromatase inhibitors. These drugs stop the body from producing estrogen.
  • Ovarian suppression. This therapy may involve surgical removal of the ovaries (the glands that produce much of a woman’s estrogen and progesterone), drugs that stop the ovaries from making these hormones, or chemotherapy drugs.

The study involved 446 women with a history of breast cancer who were treated at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. The women underwent pelvic exams and completed questionnaires that assessed their sexual function and vulvovaginal health.

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