Exercise, Behavioral Therapy Reduce Menopausal Symptoms Caused by Breast Cancer Treatment

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Adapted from the NCI Cancer Bulletin.

Women with breast cancer who were suffering from treatment-related menopausal symptoms experienced symptom relief with cognitive behavioral therapy, physical exercise, or both, according to a Dutch study. The findings were published October 8, 2012, in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Neil K. Aaronson, Ph.D., of the Netherlands Cancer Institute and his colleagues randomly assigned 422 patients to behavioral therapy, physical activity, an intervention combining the two, or a control group that received usual care. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the effects of psychosocial interventions and exercise on menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats, as well as on sexual functioning, psychological well-being, and health-related quality of life. The patients reported their symptoms at the start of the study and 12 weeks and 6 months later.

Compared with the control group, women who received the interventions had statistically significantly lower levels of endocrine and urinary symptoms, and behavioral therapy and physical activity had a positive effect on physical functioning. The researchers noted, however, that physical activity “affects primarily the frequency with which endocrine symptoms are experienced, but not the frequency of hot flashes and night sweats specifically.” Cognitive behavioral therapy, in contrast, “seems to not only affect symptom frequency, but also the perceived burden of hot flashes and night sweats.”

In a related editorial, Mayo Clinic researchers Debra Barton, R.N., Ph.D., and Charles Loprinzi, M.D., commented that, despite its limitations, the study demonstrated that “it is not sufficient to consider only biomedical influences [on symptoms]. …For complete symptom resolution, it may be necessary to address both the physiological expression and psychosocial context of the symptom.”

  • Posted: October 25, 2012

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