An exploration of the management of menopausal symptoms for women with a diagnosis of breast cancer: lay and professional experiences and expectations
© BioMed Central Ltd 2008
Published: 13 May 2008
Many breast cancer survivors are menopausal either at diagnosis or as a result of a premature therapy-induced menopause, complaining frequently of climacteric symptoms . The menopause is widely seen as part of the natural ageing process; however, for many women who have had treatment for breast cancer; it can be viewed as a further complication, which can significantly impact on their quality of life as they recover from cancer treatment . The increased symptoms often coincide with a time of transition from the completion of intensive treatment to follow-up care when there can be a perceived decrease in levels of support . The limited evidence to guide practice both pharmacologically and nonpharmacologically within breast cancer has created a confused environment, for both clinicians and patients . The aim of the present study was therefore to explore the experiences and expectations of both women with breast cancer and the health professionals, in relation to the management of menopausal symptoms in a clinical setting.
A qualitative exploratory study using focus groups and in-depth individual interviews was carried out to collect data from 14 female patients with breast cancer and from 18 health professionals who worked predominately with breast cancer within a large cancer centre. The data were coded and organised using QSR Nvivo 7 Software and were analysed thematically.
Three main themes emerged across both groups; namely, recognising the inevitability, building relationships and moving forward. The data presented an insight into the complexities of menopausal symptoms that are experienced by women with breast cancer within the context of their diagnosis, treatment and ongoing care, and the contrasting perceptions of the health professionals who manage their care.
While the findings have highlighted the complex nature of menopausal symptoms for women with breast cancer, it has also identified the difficulty of isolating these symptoms from the whole experience associated with breast cancer from diagnosis and beyond. There is a need to assess and manage women both individually and within a multidisciplinary context, particularly as women continue to see different healthcare professionals following completion of treatment. This would allow complex issues that span across the premenopausal, perimenopausal, or postmenopausal stages, to be identified and resolved effectively.
Funded by the Centre for Integrated Healthcare, Edinburgh.
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