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Research, news and issues for young women

March 2016

Pregnancy following breast cancer using assisted reproduction and its effect on long term outcome

European researchers conducted a small study exploring the impact of assisted reproductive technology (ART) on women who had been treated for breast cancer and who had subsequently become pregnant. ART is the use of clinical or laboratory technology to help women become pregnant. It can include a range of procedures, including in vitro fertilisation or egg donation.

In the study, women aged between 18 to 45, who had been diagnosed with early breast cancer between 2000 and 2009, who had attended one of five European Oncological and Fertility Centres and who had become pregnant were included. A total of 206 women were included in the study, including 180 women who became pregnant spontaneously after receiving breast cancer treatment and 26 women who had become pregnant after ART.

One of the key areas explored by the researchers was whether the use of ART had an impact on women’s breast cancer outcomes (i.e. were women who had used ART following breast cancer treatment more likely to experience a recurrence of breast cancer than women who had not). In exploring this issue, the researchers conducted a follow-up analysis with 198 of the women after nearly 10 years. They found that there did not appear to be significant differences in women’s breast cancer outcomes - of the 198 women, 5.7% of women (10) who had fallen pregnant spontaneously had experienced a recurrence of breast cancer as had 8% of women (2) who had become pregnant following ART. However, the researchers noted the small size of this study and that additional research in this area should be undertaken.

Source: Goldrat, O. et al. (2015). ‘Pregnancy following breast cancer using assisted reproduction and its effect on long-term outcome,’ European Journal of Cancer, 51, 1490-1496.

November 2015

Impact of fertility concerns on women’s decisions about hormone therapy

American researchers have conducted a study exploring why some young women choose to delay or not take their prescribed hormone therapy or stop taking it earlier than the recommended five years.

Hormone therapies are drugs (e.g. tamoxifen, Fermara, Arimidex, Aromasin) which are used to treat hormone positive breast cancer. It is usually recommended that hormone therapies be taken for at least five years.

In the study, the researchers began by identifying premenopausal women who had attended a particular breast clinic in Chicago between 2007 and 2012 and who were aged between 25 and 45 who, had been diagnosed with hormone receptor positive breast cancer and had been prescribed tamoxifen.

A total of 515 women were identified. Of these women, 69 women (13.4%) either did not take the prescribed hormone therapy or delayed taking it, and 80 women (15.5%) stopped taking hormone therapy earlier than was recommended.

The researchers examined the medical records of the women who did not start, delayed or stopped hormone therapy early, and conducted telephone interviews with 88 of the women.

The researchers found that being diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), declining to have radiation therapy, and not receiving chemotherapy were all associated with either not starting hormone therapy or stopping it before five years.

The researchers also found that:

  • Of the 80 women who stopped tamoxifen before the recommended five years, 63.7%  (51) stopped because of side effects and one quarter (20, 25%) stopped so that they could try to become pregnant
  • Of the 69 women who either did not start or who delayed hormone therapy, 36.2% (25) did so because of worries about side effects and 34.8% (24) wished to become pregnant.

As fertility concerns appeared to play a role in a proportion of the young women’s decisions to stop, delay or not begin prescribed hormone therapy, the researchers note the importance of health professionals discussing options to preserve fertility with young women prescribed hormone therapy as well as the possibility of taking a temporary break from hormone therapy should women wish to try to become pregnant.

Source: N Llarena, et al., ‘Impact of Fertility Concerns on Tamoxifen Initiation and Persistence,’ Journal of the National Cancer Institute, vol. 107, no. 10, 2015.

Pregnancy after breast cancer trial

In Western Australia (WA), the POSITIVE trial is a clinical trial for young women with hormone positive breast cancer who wish to interrupt hormone therapy to try to become pregnant. More information about this trial is available on BCNA’s clinical trials webpage.

April 2015

Adjuvant Ovarian Suppression in Premenopausal Breast Cancer

Researchers conducting the international randomised control trial, Suppression of Ovarian Function Trial (SOFT), examined whether premenopausal women with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer would benefit from the addition of an ovarian suppressant treatment to tamoxifen or Aromasin compared with tamoxifen alone. An ovarian suppressant treatment stops a woman’s ovaries from producing oestrogen.

In the study, 3,066 premenopausal women were randomly assigned to receive either five years of tamoxifen, tamoxifen with an ovarian suppressant or Aromasin with an ovarian suppressant.

The researchers found that some young women benefited from the addition of an ovarian suppressant to Aromasin, especially women aged under 35 years. While approximately one-third of women under 35 receiving tamoxifen alone had a breast cancer recurrence, only one sixth of women under 35 receiving Aromasin and an ovarian suppression treatment had a recurrence.

The researchers also found that women who were treated with chemotherapy and who remained premenopausal (i.e. women whose ovaries were still producing oestrogen) also benefited from the addition of an ovarian suppressant to either tamoxifen or Aromasin. Women in this group who received tamoxifen plus an ovarian suppressant had a 22 per cent reduction in their risk of a breast cancer recurrence. The reduction in risk of a breast cancer recurrence for women in this group who received an ovarian suppressant plus Aromasin was even greater at 34 per cent. For more information on this study, please visit the New England Journal of Medicine website.

July-October 2014

Zoladex (goserelin) may help preserve fertility in premenopausal women

Researchers conducting the international randomised clinical trial, Prevention of Early Menopause Study (POEMS), examined whether giving the drug Zoladex (goserelin) to premenopausal women receiving chemotherapy for early-stage, hormone-receptor-negative breast cancer would help prevent early menopause in these women and help preserve their fertility.

Results were presented at the 2014 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting in Chicago.

218 premenopausal women in the study were randomly assigned to receive either a monthly injection of Zoladex and chemotherapy, or chemotherapy alone.

The researchers found that eight per cent of the women who received a monthly dose of Zoladex alongside their chemotherapy were in menopause two years later, compared with 22 per cent of the women who had not received the Zoladex.

Two years after the chemotherapy had finished, 15 per cent of the women who had received Zoladex had given birth, compared with 7 per cent of women who did not receive the Zoladex.

Ultimately, the researchers concluded that premenopausal women who receive a monthly dose of Zoladex while receiving chemotherapy treatment are less likely to undergo early menopause and are more likely to have better fertility outcomes.

May-June 2014

Aromasin more effective at reducing the risk of recurrence than tamoxifen

A large study has found that the aromatase inhibitor Aromasin (exemestane) is more effective at reducing the risk of a breast cancer recurrence than tamoxifen, when given with ovarian function suppression, in premenopausal women with hormone-positive breast cancer.

The study, presented at the recent American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual scientific meeting, was a joint analysis of two phase III trials, TEXT and SOFT.

The joint analysis of the two trials included 4,690 young women (average age 43 years) who were randomly selected to receive either:

  • Aromasin plus ovarian function suppression (OFS)
  • tamoxifen plus OFS for five years.

OFS was achieved by treating women with the drug triptorelin, oophorectomy (the removal of the ovaries), or radiotherapy to the ovaries.

After analysing the results of both trials, researchers found that:

  • there was a 34 per cent relative reduction in breast cancer recurrence risk in the Aromasin plus OFS group compared to the tamoxifen plus OFS group
  • there was a 22 per cent relative reduction in the risk of developing secondary breast cancer in the Aromasin plus OFS group compared to the tamoxifen plus OFS group
  • the cancer-free survival five years after beginning treatment was 91.1 per cent in women treated with Aromasin plus OFS, versus 87.3 per cent in women treated with tamoxifen plus OFS.
  • The five-year overall survival rate was high in both groups ─ 95.9 per cent in the exemestane plus OFS group and 96.9 per cent in the tamoxifen plus OFS group.

The researchers conclude that longer follow-up is needed to better understand the impact of the two treatments on long-term survival.

Fertility concerns of young women with breast cancer

American researchers have investigated the fertility concerns in young women with breast cancer.

The researchers recruited 620 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer and aged 40 or younger (average 37 years). Women were surveyed about their diagnosis, treatment and fertility-related concerns.

The researchers found that:

  • 425 women (68 per cent) discussed fertility issues with their doctor before starting treatment
  • 319 (51 per cent) were concerned about becoming infertile after treatment.

Because of concerns about fertility:

  • 4 women (1 per cent) chose not to receive chemotherapy
  • 12 women (2 per cent) chose one chemotherapy treatment over another
  • 6 women (1 per cent) considered not receiving hormone therapy 19 women (3 per cent) decided not to receive hormone therapy
  • 71 women (11 per cent) considered receiving hormone therapy for fewer than 5 years
  • 65 women (10 per cent) used fertility preservation strategies.

The researchers also found that women who were more concerned about their fertility tended to be younger, not have children, and be receiving chemotherapy.

Characteristics of young women with breast cancer

A small Israeli study has investigated the characteristics of breast cancers in young women diagnosed with breast cancer.

The researchers studied the medical files of 132 young women diagnosed with breast cancer between 2000 and 2010. Women included in the study ranged from 24-35 years of age (average 31 years). For each woman, the researchers investigated the woman’s personal characteristics, treatment, and whether she had a recurrence of breast cancer.

The results of this analysis showed that:

  • 34 per cent of women had a family history of breast cancer; 2.3 per cent a family history of ovarian cancer; and 35.6  per cent other cancers 
  • 24.5 per cent of women carried a BRCA1 or BRCA 2 gene mutation.
  • 55.3 per cent of women had lumpectomy and 40 per cent of women had mastectomy.
  • 4.7 per cent were diagnosed with secondary breast cancer.
  • 60.6 per cent of women had hormone-positive breast cancer, 32.6 per cent were HER2-positive, 19 per cent had triple negative disease, and 44.7 per cent had grade 3 disease (where cancer cells are fast growing).
  • Neoadjuvant chemotherapy (chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the tumour) was given to 21.6 per cent of women, and 77.3 per cent had adjuvant chemotherapy (chemotherapy after surgery).
  • 45 per cent of women who had a mastectomy also chose to have their other breast removed to reduce their risk of breast cancer in that breast (contralateral prophylactic mastectomy) and 17.3 per cent had risk-reducing salpingo-oophorectomy (the removal of the fallopian tubes and ovaries)
  • After an average follow-up period of 6.5 years, 23 per cent developed secondary breast cancer and 7 per cent were diagnosed with breast cancer in their other breast.
  • Five years after diagnosis, 87.2 per cent of women were still alive.

The researchers conclude that young women diagnosed with breast cancer seem to have a high rate of familial cancer, BRCA gene mutations and more aggressive disease. Despite this, five years after diagnosis, the rate of survival is high (87.2 per cent).

The study was presented at the recent American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual scientific meeting. For more information on this study, visit the ASCO website.

February 2014

Mothers an important source of support for young women with breast cancer

A small Canadian study has found that mothers are an important source of support for young women diagnosed with breast cancer.

Researchers surveyed 90 women aged 40 or younger diagnosed with breast cancer. The survey aimed to determine the effects of a breast cancer diagnosis on young women's relationships with their mothers and the support needs of mothers from the daughters' perspective.

After analysing the survey results, the researchers found the following:

  • Of the 83 daughters who shared their diagnosis with their mothers, 76 (92 per cent) felt that their mothers had been emotionally and/or practically supportive
  • Forty-three daughters (54 per cent) reported that the breast cancer diagnosis had a favourable impact on their relationship with their mothers
  • Of the 35 employed mothers, 26 had taken time off from work to support their daughters
  • Nineteen mothers had slept over or moved in with daughters during their treatment
  • Twenty-two daughters believed their mothers felt responsible to some extent for their developing breast cance
  • Fifty-nine daughters felt that health professionals could help mothers by providing information resources, education sessions, and linkages to support groups

The researchers conclude that mothers are an important source of support for young daughters with breast cancer, with the mother–daughter relationship frequently becoming closer after diagnosis. However, the practical and emotional burden on mothers appears to be high.

Young women should be given more information on fertility

UK-based researchers have investigated the fertility-related experiences of young women diagnosed with breast cancer who do not have children.

Nineteen women aged below 45, who did not have children and were diagnosed with breast cancer at least 6 months before the study, were interviewed.

Researchers found that the information that women received on the topic of fertility varied greatly. Half of women were given the opportunity to pursue assisted reproductive options before they began chemotherapy. Most women expressed concern about the future, including their fertility, the impact of pregnancy on a breast cancer recurrence, and the health of the child. In general, women reported receiving little information or support on these issues.

The researchers conclude that young women should be given more information on fertility issues shortly after their breast cancer diagnosis, and again after chemotherapy and during follow-up appointments. Additionally, women should be provided with emotional support to assist them in making decisions about their fertility options.

September 2013

Younger women with breast cancer overestimate risk of breast cancer in other breast

American researchers have found that younger women diagnosed with breast cancer often overestimate the risk that they will develop breast cancer in their other, unaffected breast.

The recent study included 123 women aged 40 or younger who were diagnosed with breast cancer, and who chose to have a bilateral mastectomy (the removal of both breasts) despite having breast cancer in only one breast.

Participants were asked to complete a survey that asked questions about their reasons for having a bilateral mastectomy, their knowledge of the risks and benefits of the surgery, and their satisfaction with the surgery outcome.

Almost all the women in the study (98 per cent) said that they had the surgery to decrease the risk of developing breast cancer in their unaffected breast, and 94 per cent said that they chose the surgery to improve their chances of survival.

Despite this finding, the researchers found that only 18 per cent of women said that they thought the surgery improves women's chances of surviving breast cancer. The researchers tried to explain this contradiction by saying that " Most women acknowledge that [having their healthy breast removed] does not improve survival, but anxiety and fear of recurrence probably influence them during the decision-making process ."

The researchers noted that women with a known BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation better understood their risk of developing breast cancer in their unaffected breast, while women without a gene mutation greatly overestimated their risk.

The researchers conclude that it is very important for doctors to effectively communicate to young women the risks and benefits of removing the healthy unaffected breast to ensure that they are making informed decisions about their surgery.

August 2013

Women with perceived fertility have improved quality of life

A small study recently published in the Quality of Life Research journal has found that women who perceive that they are fertile after cancer treatment report improved quality of life.

The researchers compared quality of life in 59 young women diagnosed with cancer, with 66 women without a cancer diagnosis. The researchers found that the women diagnosed with cancer experienced higher stress and anxiety, and greater issues with sexual wellbeing, physical pain and fatigue compared with those without a diagnosis.

Of interest to the researchers was that women diagnosed with cancer who perceived that that they were fertile reported a higher quality of life. Many women incorrectly assumed that their fertility was preserved if their menstrual periods returned after treatment. However, the researchers noted that this is not necessarily the case.

July 2013

Young women more likely to opt for mastectomy than lumpectomy

Research findings presented at the recent 2013 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting have highlighted the reasons why young women diagnosed with breast cancer are opting for mastectomy rather than lumpectomy.

The study included 227 women who were 40 years or younger when diagnosed with breast cancer, and who had a choice to have either a mastectomy or lumpectomy. Of the women included in the study, 62% opted to have a single or double mastectomy rather than a lumpectomy.

The researchers identified the following as factors that influenced women’s decision to have a mastectomy:

  • a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation
  • node positive breast cancer
  • HER2-positive breast cancer
  • higher grade breast cancer
  • having two or more children
  • having a lower body mass index
  • experiencing anxiety about their breast cancer
  • having more involvement in decision-making process.

The following were found not to influence women’s decision-making process:

  • race or marital status
  • tumour size
  • having a first degree relative diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer
  • oestrogen receptor status
  • fear of recurrence
  • an experience with depression.

April 2013

Strong alliances between young people with cancer and their doctors lead to better outcomes

Researchers have looked at the experiences of 95 young adults (aged 20 to 40 years) with secondary cancers to see if those people with a strong alliance (a trusted partnership) with their oncologist have better outcomes.

They found that people who reported a strong alliance with their oncologist felt they had greater social support and less severe grief. They were also more likely to take their medication as prescribed.

The researchers noted that oncologists may enhance the psychological well-being of their younger patients by developing a strong alliance with them.

March 2013

Young women with cancer share their problems using blogs

Researchers in the US have looked at blogs written by young women with cancer to better understand the impact of cancer on their daily life and the healthcare issues these women experience.

Sixteen blogs written by young women aged between 20 and 39 years were analysed.  Five of the blogs were written by women with breast cancer, two of whom had inflammatory breast cancer. 

The following problems were found to be common themes across the blogs:

  • Pain and fatigue
  • Insurance and financial barriers
  • Fertility issues
  • Posttraumatic stress and anxiety

The researchers believe that online blogs will allow health professionals and researchers to better understand the experiences of young women with cancer “through the voice of the patient, beyond the clinic walls”.

February 2013

Young women with breast cancer are vulnerable to fear of recurrence

Australian researchers have investigated the rate and severity of fear of recurrence in young women with breast cancer.

218 premenopausal women completed a questionnaire that was designed to measure their levels of fear of recurrence.  The researchers also looked at the number of doctor visits, breast self-examinations and other health behaviours in order to determine the effect of high levels of fear of recurrence in younger women.

The researchers found that:

  • 70% of young women with breast cancer experience clinical (severe) levels of fear of recurrence
  • For many of these women, their fear of recurrence impacts a great deal on their mood and ability to make plans for the future.

The researchers recommend that more research and resources for younger women (indeed, all women) is required in order to better manage fear of recurrence.  They note that the results of their study suggest that clinicians should routinely screen young women for fear of recurrence so those with high levels can be referred and linked to support services.

Note: If you are experiencing high levels of fear of recurrence, you may like to discuss this with your GP.  If you think it may be helpful for you, your GP may be able to refer you for Medicare-subsidised sessions with a mental health professional.

November 2012

Young women who undergo mastectomy experience more body image concerns

Research published recently in the Psycho-Oncology journal has investigated the body image concerns of young women diagnosed with breast cancer.

The study included 419 women 40 years or younger, who were asked to complete a survey about their body image after breast cancer surgery.

Participants’ body image was assessed using the Cancer Rehabilitation Evaluation System (CARES); where each participant received a score from 0 to 4 (higher scores indicate greater body image concerns).

The researchers found that:

  • the average CARES score overall was 1.28
  • women who had a mastectomy without a breast reconstruction had an average CARES score of 1.87
  • women who had a mastectomy followed by a breast reconstruction had an average CARES score of 1.52
  • women who had a lumpectomy had an average CARES score of 0.85.

The research highlights that women’s body image concerns were related to the type of breast cancer surgery they had, and women who had a mastectomy experienced greater body image issues, while those who had a lumpectomy experienced fewer.

The researchers also found that more body image concerns was associated with radiotherapy treatment, anxiety and depression, fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, weight gain and weight loss.

October 2012

The incidence of breast cancer in women under 40 remains steady

A recent government report confirms that the incidence of breast cancer in women under 40 in Australia has remained the same, and is not increasing.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Breast cancer in Australia report shows that, for women under 40, the incidence rate of breast cancer remained between 11–13 per 100,000 women, from 1982 to 2008.

As featured in the September edition of BCNA’s Research Bulletin, the same report found that overall, the number of women surviving breast cancer has continued to increase over the past thirty years.

Between 1982 and 1987, 72% of women diagnosed with breast cancer were expected to survive more than five years. This increased to 90% of women diagnosed in 2010.

September 2012

A possible way to preserve fertility identified

Australian researchers have identified a possible way to protect the fertility of women treated for cancer, in the future.

The researchers found that two proteins, called PUMA and NOXA, cause the death of egg cells when the DNA of these cells is damaged following radiotherapy or chemotherapy. The death of damaged cells is a natural way for the body to ensure that abnormal offspring are not created; however this cell death also resulting in infertility in women following cancer treatment.

The researchers found that egg-producing cells that were missing the PUMA protein did not die after being exposed to radiation. While this would ordinarily cause concern around damaged egg cells resulting in abnormal offspring, the researchers were surprised to find that in addition to surviving the radiation, the cells were able to repair the DNA damage they had sustained. These cells could then go on to be fertilised and produce healthy embryos in a laboratory environment.

The researchers conclude that in future, drugs that block the function of the PUMA protein could be used to stop egg cell death in women undergoing radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy to treat cancer. However, it is important to note that the development of any new treatments as a result of this research is likely to be a long way off.

July 2012

Factors that influence whether health professionals discuss fertility preservation options

Research conducted in the UK has investigated the factors that influence whether fertility preservation is discussed with women diagnosed with breast cancer.

An online questionnaire was completed by 306 UK-based health professionals, including surgeons, oncologists and breast care nurses. The researchers found that there were a number of different factors which influenced whether fertility preservation was discussed with the woman, including:

  • the woman’s age (78%)
  • tumour status (37.9%)
  • concern that fertility preservation would delay chemotherapy (37.3%)
  • whether the patient had children (33.5%) or a partner (24.7%)
  • oestrogen receptor status (22.6%)
  • lack of knowledge regarding the available options (20.9%)
  • concern that fertility preservation would compromise the success of cancer treatment (19.8%).

The extent of the health professional’s knowledge of fertility preserving options was better in oncologists than surgeons or breast care nurses.

>Fertility-related Choices: A Decision Aid for Younger Women with Early Breast Cancer is a booklet for young women who have recently been diagnosed with early breast cancer, and is distributed by BCNA free of charge. If you have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer and are concerned about your fertility, you can order a copy of the booklet by visiting the resources section of BCNA’s website or by calling 1800 500 258.

June 2012

Sexual interest and function investigated in young women with breast cancer

A study conducted in the USA and presented at the recent American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting investigated sexual interest and function in  women 40 years or younger who were diagnosed with breast cancer. For each of the 298 women who participated, researchers investigated both the emotional and physical aspects of sexual interest and function. They found that anxiety, depression, musculoskeletal pain, and poorer body image were associated with both reduced sexual interest and function. Vaginal pain was associated with reduced sexual function, and unhappiness with appearance was associated with reduced interest. The researchers concluded that those who were treated with chemotherapy were particularly at risk of experiencing issues with sexual interest and function.

BCNA has developed a free information booklet, Breast Cancer and Sexual Wellbeing, to help women with their sexual wellbeing during and after treatment. Topics in the booklet include practical strategies to help with building intimate relationships, the loss of desire, and dealing with physical symptoms like vaginal dryness. To download a copy, visit the resources section of BCNA's website, or call us on (free call) 1800 500 258 and we will mail a copy to you.

May 2012

Fertility decision aid found to be helpful in young women with breast cancer 

Australian-based researchers have investigated the helpfulness of a fertility decision aid amongst young women diagnosed with early breast cancer. The study included 120 newly diagnosed women aged 18 to 40 who were concerned about their future fertility. When compared with women who did not receive the fertility decision aid, women provided with the aid experienced:

  • reduced decision regret
  • improved knowledge
  • greater satisfaction with the information they were provided with, and
  • greater satisfaction with their fertility options.

Fertility-related Choices: A Decision Aid for Younger Women with Early Breast Cancer is the decision aid investigated in this study, and is distributed by BCNA, free of charge. If you have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer and are concerned about your fertility, you may like to speak with your doctor or breast care nurse, who can order a copy of the decision aid on your behalf.

  • For more information about this research project, visit the PubMed website.

April 2012

Younger women prone to fear of cancer recurrence

Research in Australia has investigated the fear of cancer recurrence (FCR) in younger women diagnosed with breast cancer. 218 women aged between 18 to 45 years completed an online survey, and of these 70% of women experienced clinical levels of FCR. The researchers also investigated the relationship between FCR and the use of health services, surveillance and self-examination, and noted that women who experienced higher FCR were more likely to:

  • have unscheduled visits with their GP
  • examine their own breasts more regularly
  • have less frequent health practitioner administered medical surveillance (e.g. mammograms and ultrasound, mammograms)
  • utilise complementary therapy, counselling and support groups.

The researchers conclude that younger women are more vulnerable to FCR, and highlight that health professionals should be aware that women may experience FCR well after their diagnosis and treatment phase.

Many of the participants in this research project were recruited through BCNA’s Review & Survey Group. If you would like to join the group and receive opportunities to participate in breast cancer research, surveys and reviews, please register at the Review & Survey Group page.

Pregnancy following breast cancer is safe

Research presented at the recent European Breast Cancer Conference held in Vienna last month found that it is safe for women diagnosed with breast cancer to become pregnant at any time after their diagnosis, regardless of whether their breast cancer is oestrogen receptor-positive or negative. Previously, it was thought that the hormonal changes that result from pregnancy could possibly increase the risk of a recurrence in women diagnosed with oestrogen receptor-positive breast cancers.

A total of 1183 women from various countries participated in the study. The research highlighted that in fact, women with oestrogen-positive breast cancer were surviving the same amount of time without a recurrence compared with women who had oestrogen-negative breast cancer. Therefore the researchers concluded that it was safe for women to become pregnant after breast cancer, regardless of whether their breast cancer was oestrogen receptor-positive or negative.

March 2012

Barriers to accessing follow-up care in Canada

Canadian research has assessed the rehabilitation needs of breast cancer survivors under the age of 50, to identify the factors that impact on the frequency that follow-up services are used. Rehabilitation services are those that are similar to follow up care and survivorship plans in Australia.

Researchers interviewed 35 breast cancer survivors, and found that the barriers preventing women from using rehabilitation services included a lack of available services, issues with travel, the costs of services, and the lack of support to address the specific needs that relate to being under 50. Personal barriers that affected participation included a lack of time due to family commitments and other medical appointments.

The research highlights that some of these barriers can be reduced by increasing the number of services available to women. The research also recommends that health professionals consider these barriers when they develop and promote services for women.

Sexual wellbeing program to help breast cancer survivors

Researchers from South Korea have developed a 6-week program to help improve sexual wellbeing amongst breast cancer survivors, by addressing the physical and psychological aspects of sexual wellbeing. The results of the research found that the sexual wellbeing satisfaction increased in women who completed the program, compared with women who did not complete the program.

The authors highlighted that the program allows women to be actively involved in improving their sexual wellbeing following a breast cancer diagnosis.

BCNA’s comprehensive booklet, Breast Cancer and Sexual Wellbeing, was developed to assist women address issues such as the loss of desire, the physical symptoms of menopause including vaginal dryness, and building and rebuilding emotional and physical intimacy with a partner.