As we have already learned in other articles on this page, menopause strikes most women more or less unprepared. At some point, the bag of tricks of the trade opens slowly and it becomes clear that the previously unknown symptoms must be caused by the hormonal changes.
“However, the unpleasant side effect of this therapy is that it mercilessly and – in my case – literally overnight initiated the menopause.”
The situation is completely different if you are one of the 69,000 or so women in Germany who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer every year.
The situation is completely different if you are one of the 69,000 or so women in Germany who are newly diagnosed with breast cancer every year. As if it hadn’t been enough for me to hit the bull’s eye with the first mammogram beyond the age of 50, it is part of the treatment of a very widespread variant of breast cancer to keep it in check with an anti-hormone therapy; because many breast cancer tumors love estrogen and progestin. The good news is, of course, that in addition to surgery, chemo and radiation with anti-hormone therapy, these tumor types can be suppressed. However, the unpleasant side effect of this therapy is that it mercilessly and – in my case – literally overnight initiated the menopause overnight.
Surgery and radiation were followed by my daily Tamoxifen tablet in early summer 2020. Being in my early 50s, I thought I had already entered the perimenopause, even though I had not yet noticed any significant changes that I would have expected in this context. The hormone status determination before starting the anti-hormone therapy taught me better: my menopause seemed far from being in sight. Much to the delight of the lump in my left breast, I had instead virtually flooded my body with estrogen. This had to stop if I wanted to starve the cancer cells that might still be present despite the operation and radiation.
True to the motto “cancer is the enemy, not the tablet against it” I swallowed the first Tamoxifen after an extensive breakfast. The following night I got up five times because of hot flashes, I had to change clothes, dress or undress, open or close the window, open or close the blanket and roll from one side to the other. Quite annoying! During the day, I continued with hot flashes almost every hour. After all, I was already awake, so they could not interrupt me in my dreams. Sitting at my desk I put my forearms on a towel, because otherwise I would have left nasty stains. I had the feeling that there are not only light switches but also “hot flash switches” that somebody flicks at will without warning and with no apparent purpose.
And then came the heat wave of the summer. With over 30 degrees in our attic apartment, I thought it couldn’t get any hotter. But it could. At some point, however, I had the impression that the hot flushes were decreasing in both frequency and severity, or at least that I was getting used to them. Either way, I couldn’t tell the difference because of the summer heat. When the summer was over in September, my hot flashes were also over and, much to my delight, have not come back since. Other typical menopausal symptoms, which the Tamoxifen also has in stock according to the package insert, have fortunately been spared me so far.
It seems as if my menopause has been purred together into short and violent four months of hot flashes during the Covid summer. But I won’t know for sure for several years. At the moment I assume that I will have to stick with the anti-hormone therapy for seven to ten years. If everything remains as it is now, I will certainly have been very lucky!
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Breast Screening: Screening using mammography is an effective way to diagnose breast cancer early. Early diagnosis is important because it hugely increases the chances of survival – the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership (ICBP) found that for women diagnosed at the earliest stage in England, the chance of surviving for three years is better than 99%, however for those diagnosed at the latest stage this drops to just 27.9%.
On the balance of the evidence, we believe that the breast screening programme is a valuable tool in preventing breast cancer deaths. However, it is vital women are given all the available information about the potential harms and benefits of screening.