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Breast cancer and stopping HRT

We continue this article and look at women dealing with breast cancer and their possible reasons for stopping their HRT treatments or failing to take them as prescribed. The opions expressed here are meant to stimulate thought and discussion and are not to be considered entirely conclusive.

Marriage, support and breast cancer
Are women who are married or in a long-term partnership perhaps more concerned with their mortality than say women who are not? Is it safe to say or even fair to say that some women may perceive their situations as more promising if they have someone supporting them or someone to live for? This leap of faith does lead us to ponder similar studies that indicate support groups and relationships tend to help us get through difficulties and illnesses.

Are women aged 55 to 65 feeling that while they are older, there are still many years ahead of them worth fighting for? For these women, survival mode has kicked into high gear plus the desire to beat this (or any other disease) and not let cancer be the victor. This theory sounds simple but makes us wonder about the younger and older women taking HRT and deciding to stop.

Younger women and breast cancer
Women under 40 may still have the ideals of youth on their side and those feelings many of us have of being strong enough to fight breast cancer with or without HRT. Some may also be worried that HRT may increase some other types of cancer.

Still other younger women may simply be dealing with so much already – careers, relationships, children, elderly parents, perimenopause and now breast cancer – that these younger women simply put their needs behind those of others. Busy lifestyles are not the most conducive to strict regimens such as cancer treatments and continuing with HRT for another 5 years may be a type of tossing the regimens to the curb.

Older women and breast cancer
For those women over 65 the odds are that they are perhaps widowed or not involved in long-term relationships at this point. Women in this age group may also be somewhat distanced physically, geographically, mentally and emotionally from their family members and the community at large. Without a support network, it is more difficult for cancer patients to survive and beat the disease. Some women may sadly and erroneously believe that there is no use in taking their HRT to deal with breast cancer and may simply be giving up.

Lumpectomies and breast cancer
The more difficult concept involves women who have undergone lumpectomies; why would they be more likely to halt HRT treatments? With the breasts still intact, there is not the finality that a mastectomy or double mastectomy brings.

This in no way alleviates the seriousness of the procedure or the cancer itself. Yet women post-mastectomy often refer to themselves as ‘incomplete’ or not a full woman. Lumpectomy patients may view themselves in a very different light or feel that they have more ‘completeness’ or strength to do battle with cancer.

Taking HRT and dealing with breast cancer are difficult for any woman and provide challenges many of us do not fully understand. But if you or someone you know has been failing to take their HRT medications as prescribed or even stopped taking them altogether, seek help from a doctor, breast cancer support group or related medical association. All women deserve the chance to survive breast cancer and to have the strength to meet the challenge with dignity and medication that helps.

Research material and reference to the study provided by Women’s Health Matters: www.womenshealthmatters.ca and click under ‘news’ June 2010.

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