Contrary to common belief, hormone therapy worsens the quality of life for women with breast cancer to a greater extent than does chemotherapy. The study by Institut Gustave Roussy in France involved 4,262 patients who had surgery for breast cancer.
This was followed for some by chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy. About 75 to 80 per cent took hormone therapy for at least five years.
At the two-year postoperative mark, there was an overall deterioration in the quality of life for all. But it was greater in patients who received hormone therapy, especially after menopause. The deleterious effects of chemotherapy were more temporary. However, chemotherapy had a bigger effect on the quality of life for non-menopausal patients, especially on cognitive functions.
Hormone therapy may have several side-effects.
The side effects of hormone therapy include hot flashes, vaginal discharge, vaginal dryness or irritation, fatigue, nausea, joint and muscle pain and impotence in men with breast cancer. Less common but more serious effects include blood clots, endometrial or uterine cancer, cataracts, stroke, osteoporosis and heart disease.
It’s estimated that in 2019, almost 27,000 women in Canada will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 5,000 will die from it. On average, 74 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer every day and 14 will die of it every day.
Treatment of breast cancer includes surgery and involves difficult decisions about necessary follow-up therapies.