Tag Archives: Coping With Cancer

Cancer Has Been Linked to Popular Menopause Medication

Cancer Linked To Menopause Medication
Cancer Linked To Menopause Medication

Two new studies appear to have decided the debate over whether there is a causal link between cancer and menopause hormone therapy. The answer is YES.

Menopause Drug Linked to Cancer

In recent cancer news, a Canadian Cancer Society report concludes that a popular estrogen-based menopause drug has caused breast cancer in thousands of Canadian women.

As reported in The Star, the report states: “The body of evidence to date overwhelmingly points to a causal connection between the use of Premplus and the development of invasive breast cancer in women.”

The report has sparked a Canadian class-action lawsuit against the drug’s manufacturer, Wyeth Canada. Owned by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Wyeth has denied that Premplus causes breast cancer, stating that the medication is “safe and effective when used as directed.” A Vancouver court will hear the lawsuit in October.

HRT Doubles Cancer Risk

In corroborating cancer news, a large federal study in the U.S. has found that menopause hormone replacement therapy (HRT) medications double breast cancer risk when taken for five years. In women taking estrogen and progestin pills, cancer risk increased in just two years.

However, halting hormone replacement therapy returned cancer risk levels to normal in about two years. Given study findings, researchers believe breast cancer risk would not increase for most women if hormone replacement therapy was stopped within three years.

“It’s an excellent message for women: You can still diminish risk (by quitting), even if you’ve been on hormones for a long time,” Dr. Claudine Isaacs of Georgetown University told The Star.

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Helping Children Cope when Mom Has Cancer

Children Coming to Terms With Parents' Cancer
Children Coming to Terms With Parents’ Cancer

To their children, mothers seem to be all-knowing, indestructible, invulnerable, the steadying rock that is always there, providing both rudder and anchor for young lives learning to navigate the world. Children can always count on their moms when they need a snack, a playmate, a bandaid and especially a hug. Moms banish monsters from closets, keep cookie jars well stocked, read bedtime stories, listen to prayers and kiss us goodnight. Unless they have cancer, then everything changes for their children.

Mothers with cancer are vulnerable. They are no longer indestructible and must be treated with care for cancer makes their bodies fragile. As Susan Grubar, a mother struggling with terminal ovarian cancer, shared recently on the New York Times Well blog:

“With varying degrees of fearful awareness, such children intuit that the mother who comforts by murmuring ‘I am here’ will not always be there. Under such circumstances, how to safeguard childhood or adolescence from anxious vigilance and dread? Mothers often stand at the center of their children’s orbit. How do you help children when mom has cancer?”

Grub is grateful that her ovarian cancer diagnosis came after her children were grown, though she mourns the fact that her relationship with her new grandson will be cut too short. Even as adults, she and her daughters are having difficulty with the finality of cancer and the separation anxiety terminal cancer produces. She is grateful that she has had many years to build precious memories with her daughters that will sustain them after she is gone — a gift many mothers with cancer are never given.

Next time: Leaving memories for your children

Helping Children Cope with a Parent’s Cancer

Cancer Support.
Cancer Support.

When a parent is diagnosed with cancer, moms and dads struggle with what, when and how much to tell their children. Immediately after diagnosis, parents are understandably struggling to educate themselves, cope with their own emotions and make cancer treatment decisions. Until they have had a chance to assimilate the diagnosis and all it entails, they may make not feel ready to discuss cancer with their children. Many parents feel a need to have some level of certainty about what will happen before trying to answer their children’s questions.

Unfortunately, there are few certainties when it comes to cancer. Individual response to cancer treatments allows for a range of possible outcomes. While statistics allow oncologists to tell their patients what is most likely to happen, your own cancer experience many not follow the normal pattern. While the desire to wait until your know what is going to happen is understandable, with cancer it is an unachievable goal.

Trying to shield your children by failing to discuss cancer may only make them worry more. Even very young children are surprisingly attuned to the normal rhythms of family life. Cancer disrupts those rhythms and children are quick to notice. Giving children an explanation for the changes cancer brings to family life and a parent’s health prevent children from imaging all kinds of horrible things or feeling guilt that they may have caused the problem.

Bringing cancer into the open allows children to express their fears and talk about their feelings. Even when there are no firm answers to their questions, being able to talk openly about what is happening in the family can be immensely reassuring to children.

You can find information about discussing cancer with your children at the American Cancer Society and Helping Children Cope.