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Therapy, exercise aid chemo-related menopause

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Oct 12 (Reuters) - Younger women who are thrust intomenopause because of breast cancer treatment may get some relieffrom talk therapy and regular exercise, according to a studyfrom the Netherlands.

Menopause symptoms such as hot flashes often come ongradually for women who go through natural menopause, as thebody's production of hormones slowly dwindles. But that's notoften the case for women diagnosed with breast cancer andtreated with chemotherapy and other potent drugs.

"Oftentimes with women with breast cancer who experiencetreatment-induced menopause, the symptoms are much more severethan in natural menopause," said Neil Aaronson from TheNetherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam, who worked on thestudy.

In addition, those women can't take replacement hormones toease the symptoms, an effective but controversial treatment formenopause-related symptoms, since the hormones can put them atrisk for a cancer recurrence.

For the study, which appeared in the Journal of ClinicalOncology, Aaronson and his colleagues randomly assigned 422women with breast cancer and treatment-induced menopause to oneof four groups.

One group went to six weekly therapy sessions, anotherconsulted with physiotherapists and started tailored exerciseprograms, a third did both therapy and exercise and the finalgroup was put on a waitlist.

The type of group treatment, known as cognitive behavioraltherapy, included relaxation exercises and addressed symptoms aswell as body image and sexuality issues.

Six months later, women in the talk therapy, exercise andcombined groups reported an improvement in treatment-relatedsymptoms, each gaining about five points on a 73-point scalecompared to fewer than two points among waitlisters.

Women who'd had therapy also said they were bothered less bytheir hot flashes and night sweats, though they had them just asoften.

"With the cognitive behavioral therapy, we were primarilytargeting the subjective experience of the symptoms, and helpingwomen to cope with the symptoms," Aaronson told Reuters Health.

For women who have been treated for breast cancer and havemenopause-related symptoms, antidepressants and othermedications may also offer some help. But by that point,Aaronson said, many women aren't interested in taking any moredrugs or dealing with any more potential side effects.

He and his colleagues are working on translating the therapysessions into an online program that people can do on their owntime.

"More research is needed on behavioral interventions such asrelaxation therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy tounderstand more about how these things are helpful and forwhom," said Debra Barton from the Mayo Clinic, who co-wrote aneditorial accompanying the article.

"However, so far the data appear very promising."SOURCE:

(Reporting from New York by Genevra Pittman at Reuters Health;editing by Elaine Lies)

((elaine.lies@thomsonreuters.com;))

Keywords: HEALTH MENOPAUSE/CHEMO