BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Thursday, 7 August, 2003, 23:13 GMT 00:13 UK
'I got breast cancer after HRT'
Barbara Sims was diagnosed with breast cancer
Barbara Sims thinks HRT might have highlighted her cancer early
Scientists have revealed taking hormone replacement therapy is linked to an increased breast cancer risk.

Barbara Sims took the combined HRT for six years before being diagnosed with breast cancer.

But she says, even after developing cancer, she does not regret taking HRT, and would advise her daughters to do the same.

Mrs Sims said: "I started to have menopausal symptoms when I was about 43, 13 years ago. I had very heavy bleeding and irregular periods, which was a nightmare.

If women are put on HRT, they should be screened for breast cancer every year as a matter of course
Barbara Sims
"I put up with that for a couple of years, and then started with the hot flushes and the cold sweats.

"The night-sweats were dreadful. I would be lying in a pool of water.

"It felt like a spider was running down my sides, but it was trickles of perspiration.

"I would get a cold sweat, and my family would say my face would drain of colour. I would start to shiver, almost as though I was going into shock.

"Then the flush would come - it was unbelievable.

"I would go completely red, then perspiration would literally spurt from my pores."

'I was a new woman'

Mrs Sims, from Basildon, Essex, was working in staff training at HSBC at the time.

She endured her symptoms for two years before asking her GP for HRT.

There were no indications at the time there could be a link with breast cancer.

After trying different versions of the therapy, she found a combination treatment which suited her.

"Once I found one that actually suited my constitution, I was a new woman. It was wonderful."

Mrs Sims had been taking HRT for six years when she began to think about stopping her treatment.

She had just stopped the therapy when she went for her regular mammogram in February 1999 and she had found a worrying thumb-print sized dimple on her right breast.

"The problem didn't show up so much on the mammography because HRT makes the breast dense like a young breast and all that could be seen was just the dip on the outside of the breast," she said.

"Then I had a scan and it showed up some nodules and it just went from then."

'I would say yes'

Two months later, Mrs Sims had a lumpectomy, and her right breast was removed in July that year.

She was treated with the cancer drug Tamoxifen - which causes menopausal symptoms.

In July the following year she had her left breast removed after her surgeon said there was a good chance the cancer might return.

Mrs Sims, who still has six-monthly checks, added that she believed her HRT had helped her cancer be detected earlier.

"Whilst one can say that HRT is bad news, not necessarily, I have a feeling that my cancer might have gone on for some time if I had not been on HRT. I can't feel that HRT caused it."

But she said she would have chosen to take HRT, despite developing breast cancer.

She said she would advise her daughters, now aged 33 and 35, to take HRT if they experienced menopausal symptoms later in life.

"If they were in the same situation as me and if their symptoms were as severe as mine, unless there was an alternative, I would say yes.

"Because my symptoms were so debilitating I couldn't lead a normal life at all."

But she said: "If women are put on HRT, they should be screened for breast cancer every year as a matter of course."

HRT 'doubles breast cancer risk'
07 Aug 03  |  Health
Fears over long-term HRT use
20 Sep 02  |  Health
HRT linked to breast cancer
10 Jul 02  |  Health
HRT linked to ovarian cancer
02 Apr 02  |  Health

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | World | UK | England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales | Politics
Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health | Education
Have Your Say | Magazine | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific