Progesterone for hot flashes: Safe after breast cancer?

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Progesterone for hot flashes: Safe after breast cancer?

Question

Is progesterone safe for treating severe hot flashes in women who have had breast cancer?

Karen
Minnesota

Answer

Progesterone therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for hot flashes. But it's not clear if progesterone is safe for women who have had breast cancer.

More than half of all women experience hot flashes during menopause. Estrogen therapy is the most effective treatment for hot flashes. But it generally is not recommended for women who have had breast cancer, due to concerns that estrogen may increase the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

As an alternative to estrogen, some doctors prescribe progesterone alone to control hot flashes. One such progesterone treatment is megestrol acetate (Megace). This hormone is nearly as effective as estrogen therapy in reducing hot flashes and has been studied in women with breast cancer. Other effective progesterone treatments include medroxyprogesterone (Depo-Provera) — a hormone commonly used for contraception — and progesterone creams.

In women who have had breast cancer, the concern about progesterone is whether it may increase the risk of cancer recurrence — especially in women with hormone-receptive tumors. More research is needed to evaluate the safety of progesterone therapy for hot flashes in women who have had breast cancer.

If hot flashes are debilitating and all other nonhormonal therapies have been ineffective, it may be worth discussing the use of progesterone therapy with your doctor. You'll need to weigh the benefits of reducing hot flashes against the unknown risk of breast cancer recurrence with this treatment.

Last Updated: 10/17/2006
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