HRT and Breast Cancer – Beverley E
Case Study: Beverley
Married with one child (37)
Job: Pet carer
Summary of case study: Beverley was diagnosed with breast cancer aged 43 in 2002, and from the age of 47 had symptoms of the menopause for 11 years, always being told that she could not take HRT. Beverley tried everything to manage her symptoms but nothing worked. In January 2018, Beverley met Dr Louise Newson who reviewed her case and helped transform her day-to-day quality of life by prescribing a small dose of HRT. Today, her life has been transformed.
I was 43 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was 2002, and I subsequently had a lumpectomy and radiotherapy. Just a few years later, at 47, I started to experience menopausal symptoms – specifically, I had horrendous day and night sweats. The sensation of feeling boiling hot and often drenched in sweat was unbearable; night or day, I could feel the heat rising from my feet up to my head, as if I was burning up; my hair would become wet and it was certainly like nothing I had felt before. I had no other symptoms, just extreme sweats which would make it terribly hard to sleep at night and function during the day…and they were to last 11 years. The sweats were draining; it was embarrassing and had a big impact on my day-to-day life both at work and home.
As soon as I realised that I was going hurtling towards menopause, I sought medical advice to help manage the symptoms I was experiencing, but given my medical history, I was always told that I couldn’t take HRT having had breast cancer. Like many other women, I had also read a lot of negative stories in the press about HRT in the early 2000s, so had some concerns about potential risks. Thinking that HRT wasn’t a viable option for me, for over a decade I tried everything from taking sage through to having acupuncture, but nothing helped and I was at my wits end.
At the time that I started experiencing these symptoms, life also threw up its own challenges; I had been running my dad’s mobile home transport business as he was sadly dying from cancer. I was also going through a divorce.
Still suffering from these symptoms, I eventually decided to have a career break and then a change of direction, initially working at the National Arboretum, and then became a pet carer to suit my lifestyle.
Knowing that I was desperately seeking a solution, one day a friend who was also going through the menopause suggested that I go to Newson Health Menopause and Wellbeing Centre. I booked in to meet GP and menopause expert Dr Louise Newson in January 2018. Dr Newson listened to my experiences, medical history and conducted the relevant blood tests. She also listened to my concerns around my historic breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent worries about HRT. To my absolute relief reassured me that I could manage my symptoms by having a small dose of HRT every day, and explained the latest thinking.
Within just one week of using HRT, everything changed. It was as if the hot switch had been flicked off – the sweats literally went. 18 months on, I no longer feel embarrassed about the symptoms I’d experienced for so long. I feel so much happier; I can do all the things I loved doing again without feeling exhausted or wanting to live like a recluse. I am also so much more confident in my outlook and approach to life; my world has been completely transformed.
It’s strange how much of a taboo subject the menopause remains today, but women need to talk about their experiences more openly and help dispel outdated myths. Some women are lucky to breeze through this natural change in the body, whilst others suffer terribly – often in silence. However, what I want others to take from my story is that you can find the right solution if you keep an open mind and importantly keep talking.