The New York Times has done women a great favor by recently publishing an article by Roni Caryn Rabin, “Study Ties Ovarian Cancer and Hormone Therapy.” Rabin writes that study authors found that, even after controlling for a variety of expected factors, “women taking post-menopausal hormone therapy had a 29 percent greater risk of ovarian cancer, compared with women who did not use hormones.” Study author, Dr. Konstantinos K. Tsilidis says, “It’s important to get the message out to women. This is a very lethal cancer.”
A while back, in the throws of menopause, I grew weary of the night sweats, the facial flushings at all-too embarrassing moments, and the equally embarrassing and totally unpredictable menstral floodings that left me ready to crawl under any available table. So – list of complaints in hand, I took myself off to my doctor and said, “Please do something – anything!!!” He prescribed hormone therapy – and I started upon it readily. Three months later I was diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma, presenting as a tumor in one of my breasts and which had spread elsewhere. (Yes, I know, the breast presentation sounds crazy, but that’s the reality.) My oncologist asked if I were on hormone therapy. When I told him I was, he told me to stop the hormone therapy immediately. I said, “Sure – but why – what’s going on here?” He replied that at that time there was no “conclusive evidence” that hormone therapy “caused” cancers of the ovaries, breasts and skin (melanoma) – but he was sufficiently concerned about the relationship between hormone therapy and those cancers that he insisted that all of his patients come off the hormones.
Now – back to ovarian cancer. The message that Dr Tsilidis is trying to spread needs to be taken to heart. The strength of the relationship between hormone therapy and ovarian cancer is huge. One of the many real problems with ovarian cancer is that by the time you get symptoms, it may be too late for life-saving treatment.
I, for one, am glad I decided to get off the hormones and learned to live with the night sweats. (And guess what – after a while, the sweats simply went away!)