Thanks to improvements in treatment regimens, more and more patients are now surviving cancer. However, cancer survivors are faced with the serious long-term effects of the different modalities of cancer treatments. One of these adverse effects is chemotherapy-induced irreversible damage to the ovarian tissues, which leads to premature ovarian failure and its resulting consequences such as hot flashes, osteoporosis, sexual dysfunction and the risk of infertility. Chemotherapy-induced ovarian failure (or chemotherapy-induced premature menopause) affects the quality of life of female cancer survivors. Although there is no clear definition of chemotherapy-induced ovarian failure, irreversible amenorrhoea lasting for several months (>12 months) following chemotherapy and a follicle stimulating hormone level of ≥30 MIU/mL in the presence of a negative pregnancy test seems to be an appropriate characterisation. Different chemotherapy agents, alkylating cytotoxics in particular, have the potential to cause progressive and irreversible damage to the ovaries. The result of this damage is a state of premature ovarian failure, with progressive declining of estrogen levels, decreasing bone mass and an increased risk of fractures. Historically, hormonal replacement therapy (HRT) has been used to treat menopausal problems in the general population, but concerns about the potential of estrogen to increase the risk of breast cancer in women at high-risk or increase the risk of recurrence in cancer survivors, have forced physicians to utilise alternative treatments. This review discusses some of the newer therapies that are now available to provide appropriate symptom control, avoid complications such as fractures and possibly prevent infertility by making the ovarian epithelium less susceptible to cytotoxic agents.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pharmacology (medical)