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Would you take HRT if your mum had breast cancer?

(37 Posts)
porolli Fri 23-Nov-12 18:21:44

That's it really. My GP has confirmed an early menopause (I'm 42). She said the usual response for someone my age would be to prescribe hrt until the normal age for menopause. However my mum had breast cancer at the age if 53 which she ascribes to hrt taken from age 50. Having had 12 cancer free years she now has secondaries in bones and lungs.
I am struggling with menopausal symptoms and really don't know what to do as obviously there has (historically) been such a negative association for breast cancer risks.
Has anyone been in this position? And/or what would you do?

MaryAnnSingleton Fri 23-Nov-12 18:25:40

it's tricky- I would say no but then I have secondary bc - it's a matter of balance really- if your menopausal symptoms are making life really miserable then it seems sensible to try HRT but with a watchful eye on your breasts (that sounds weird,but you know what i mean) Horrid dilemma. Best wishes to your mum.

porolli Fri 23-Nov-12 18:30:31

Thanks for your response - i appreciate you replying - and all the best to you too

BIWI Fri 23-Nov-12 18:33:20

Absolutely no way. My mum died from advanced breast cancer. She had been on HRT.

BIWI Fri 23-Nov-12 18:35:36

What symptoms are you struggling with? I'm 53 now and it's over a year since my last period, so I'm fairly sure I'm through it (and I hope that's not tempting fate!).

My GP, in a very brief conversation, said to look at the herbal route.

TBH, the only thing I have that bothers me is the hot flushes, and they aren't really that bad. I take a Boots Menolieve tablet every evening.

The other thing that I do, which makes a massive difference, is to follow a low carb diet. Sugar is known to be something that can trigger flushes.

IslaValargeone Fri 23-Nov-12 18:37:01

I wouldn't.
I'm peri menopausal but not experiencing anything too horrendous.
My mum was diagnosed at 39 and it came back but she is 5 years free iirc.
I'm going to try all alternative routes if I get really bad symptoms.
Best wishes for your mum and yourself.

MaryAnnSingleton Fri 23-Nov-12 18:37:41

when I was on tamoxifen, which can cause menopausal symptoms my breast care nurse told me that some women take anti depressants for flushes - not sure if that is a good idea or not

RTchoke Fri 23-Nov-12 18:39:15

I wouldn't. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 58 following several years on HRT. I cannot remember the exact details but it was a kind of breast cancer more often seen in women who have had long term exposure to The Pill or HRT. Sadly my mum's cancer spread and she died just after her 64th birthday.

I will never take The Pill or HRT because I fear I am already more likely to have to face this horrible disease.

porolli Fri 23-Nov-12 18:41:02

Sorry about your mum biwi, it's really difficult I know. I'm having trouble with night sweats, mood swings and painful, dry vagina. I think maybe it's more psychological too. I'm quite shocked its happened this early and I'm finding it difficult to come to terms with. Plus I keep reading that I'm now at risk of osteoporosis and heart disease because of lack of oestrogen.

TheFarSide Fri 23-Nov-12 18:47:15

Re your dry vag, apparently there are HRT pessaries that you can apply direct to that area.

Re osteoporosis and heart disease, I have read that HRT can be beneficial but is not normally viewed as a first line treatment. In other words, there are other ways to reduce your risk.

There's quite a good summary of the pros & cons of HRT on this website which might help you make a decision:-

Good luck!

porolli Fri 23-Nov-12 19:01:54

Thanks to everyone who is responding. I know that this can be emotional and difficult for anyone affected by breast cancer and I wish everyone all the best

BIWI Fri 23-Nov-12 19:15:06

Re osteoporosis, the other thing to consider is exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise.

MissBoPeep Fri 23-Nov-12 19:49:30

Sorry about your mum.

You need to see a specilalist given your family history.

Remeber though that you only start counting your years on HRT re. risk AFTER the average age of the menopause- so 7 years from now to 50 would not - or should not- put you at any more risk than anyone else. But you need advice. You should really have a bone scan DXA scan now- and every 2 years to see how your bones are doing- and meanwhile do everything you can to help build your bone density. exercise- the right sort- diet, supplements etc.

There are other types of treatment for bones if you ever needed it- such as Tibolone which reduces breast cancer risk, like Tamoxifen.

There is NO WAY- sorry to shout- that your mum or any dr would know if HRT had caused her cancer. Even if breast cancer is oestrogen receptive that means it is fed by oestrogen- but not necessarily caused by taking it. I feel quite strongly about this and had a discussion with a gynae about it and that is what he said. Some drs think the HRT may hasten the growth of breast cancer if it's already there.

whizmum Fri 23-Nov-12 19:52:10

Porolli - so sorry about your mother - and it is hard to come to terms with menopause so early.

The vaginal symptoms sound the most difficult to deal with. The vaginal dryness can lead to other annoying problems. You can get oestrogen treatments and pessaries that can help with the dryness and use less than HRT and direct it where it is needed. Menopause matters have a good site to read about it. I think you can get moisturisers as well, but they do not really solve the problem.

Look at a low GI and healthy eating diet as this will keep your blood glucose levels more even - and get the right balance of fats in your diet. Diabetes UK, ArthritisCare and Heart UK have good leaflets on healthy eating. I particularly like the ArthritisCare leaflet even though I don't have arthritis!

Also, try and find some regular exercise you enjoy - I like dance; it makes me feel good, and I can't keep away!

If you could feel better and reduce your cancer risk with diet and exercise (and hopefully have great fun too!) that would be a very good thing. Good luck with it all!

MissBoPeep Fri 23-Nov-12 19:53:36

Agree that you should try HRT vaginal creams and pessaries as almost nil risk of absorption into your body and they can work very quickly to help the problem.

porolli Fri 23-Nov-12 20:02:50

Thanks for the suggestions - I'm going back to the gp next week so I think I will ask about a referral and investigate the pessaries/creams as a first step really. It feels such a minor problem compared to what my mum's going through but it's really getting me down and I wish this wasn't happening to me now

MissBoPeep Fri 23-Nov-12 21:58:07

It might be worth considering genetic counselling?

It's unlikely IMO that HRT caused your mums's cancer- after just 3 years- because statistically the risk is very very small But it's possible she had a tiny tumour at 50 and didn't know.

Has anyone suggestd early mammograms for you?

BIWI Sat 24-Nov-12 09:55:20

I'm sorry - I don't care about the statistics or the likely risk. It's a risk too far for me.

prorolli - I was offered genetic counselling, and early mammograms as well (they don't do them routinely until you're 50), and so I have been having those every year since my mum died, 8 years ago. It isn't a nice experience, but it's very reassuring.

RTchoke Sat 24-Nov-12 11:01:56

I feel the same BIWI - a risk too far for me too.

And MissBoPeep while it is true that it is "not necessarily" HRT which caused the cancer of all the others on this thread it also may have been. At least that is what my mother's specialist told us: HRT and years on the Pill.

And even if it was simply that HRT speeded the growth of a tiny existing tumour that is bad enough. That speeded-up growth might have been the difference between several years of life, or even catching the cancer before it spread.

I could never take the risk knowing that if my mother had avoided those medications she may have lived to meet and love my children, and finish the Fine Art degree that was bringing her so much joy and which she had waited her whole life to start.

fanjoforthemammaries7850 Sat 24-Nov-12 11:04:23

I wouldn't either, my mum also had breast cancer on HRT (7 years in remission, thankfully)

MissBoPeep Sat 24-Nov-12 14:17:53

RTChoke I am sorry to disagree but I had this conversation with my gynae recently after Jenni Murray wrote in the Mail that her oncologist had said her cancer was brought on/caused by HRT. My gynae- who is very highly qualified- said there is no way a dr would have told her that as a dr couldn't know the cause. Jenni Murray has also conceded in similar articles that she was very overweight for most of her mid life, and unfit, and drank a lot of alcohol- all of these are actually higher risk factors for breast cancer than HRT.

Even if you look at the Million Women Study on HRT- and it's now been discredited- the conclusion was that HRT was safe for most women short term- under 5 years.

I am very sorry for those of you who have mums with cancer. But you can't just look at a few case and say that this proves something. You have to look at studies and proper research.

I had a friend who had breast cancer at 37 and after years of remission died from secondaries at 52. She was slim and fit . On the other hand I know of 2 friends who took HRT for over 10 years- and they have not had breast cancer.

If anyone has a copy of today's Times there is a feature in it about your risk of cancer re. genetics. The dr writes that as women have a 1:8 chance of breast cancer over a lifetime, it's likely that we will all know someone in our family who had it. He says that even if a mother has cancer before the age of 50, it is not a given that a daughter would be more at risk. You need to go back decades- he links to a Macmillan site where you can plot your family history including aunts and grandparents.

I think if I were the OP I'd try everything esle first to help then if I was still really suffering and life was awful, then I'd take the risk.

BIWI Sat 24-Nov-12 14:25:54

You're clearly writing from the perspective of someone who hasn't been in the same situation, MissBoPeep. And there remains too much confusion about the available data - or the way it has been interpreted.

And giving us anecdotes does not make the data or our perception of the risk any different.

Menopausal symptoms vs risk of breast cancer is a very unequal contest.

MissBoPeep Sat 24-Nov-12 14:43:30

But BWIW you miss the point! ALL the women posting here about their mums- and I truly sympathise- are giving anecdotal accounts- and I was adding mine to say how worthless they are!

Maybe you have not (yet?) suffered severe menopausal symptoms? I've no idea. Only if someone has can they understand the way their quality of life suffers. True, it's not the same as having cancer- but there is no evidence that HRT automatically cuases breast cancer which is what many people here seem to be saying.

I'm pointing to the research- and if you care to google BMJ and look up the Danish study on osteoporosis you will see that they found no increased risk with breast cancer after 11+ years on it.

It's all about what matters to someone most- longevity or quality of life. Some people will opt for longevity and disregard quality oof life- other people will choose to take a calculated risk and go for quality of life.

I'm not saying HRT is blameless but I do think women should heed all advice about breast cancer risks, of which being overweight and drinking even moderately increase the risk more than HRT.

BIWI Sat 24-Nov-12 14:51:49

I am not missing the point at all hmm

The evidence on the link between HRT and cancer is contradictory - one survey says there is a link and then the next one says there isn't. I am not sufficiently convinced at this point in time either way.

Therefore it is a risk I am simply not prepared to take.

And yes, I have suffered/am suffering from some menopausal symptoms, but these are nothing compared with the suffering that would go with cancer.

Oh, and before you ask - I've recently shed two stones, have cut down on alcohol and am going to the gym regularly.

This is my life and health I am talking about. Therefore I make no apologies for being subjective about it.

MissBoPeep Sat 24-Nov-12 16:03:40

Is there any need to be so aggressive? confused Or defensive? I was replying to the OP- not you though I did reply to some of your points.
I do think you missed the point TBH.

But anyway- my posting(s) were not really aimed at you solely. I was making what I feel is a balanced discussion.

You said yourself up thread that your meno symtpoms are mild- just some mild hot flushes.

Fair enough. But not everyone's are. So in that sense you aren't in a place to judge either- are you?

What I was saying is that it's an individual choice. There is no way I'm telling you or anyone what to do, so I don't know why you've gone off on one [ confused]

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