Women who have undergone surgical treatment for epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) may develop menopausal symptoms due to immediate loss of ovarian function following surgery and chemotherapy. Women may experience vasomotor symptoms, sleep disturbance, difficulty concentrating, sexual dysfunction, vaginal symptoms and accelerated osteoporosis. Although hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the most effective treatment to relieve these symptoms, its safety has been questioned for women with EOC.
To assess the safety and efficacy of HRT for menopausal symptoms in women surgically treated for EOC.
We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL; 2019, Issue 6), MEDLINE via Ovid (1946 to 12 June 2019) and Embase via Ovid (1980 to 2019, week 23). We also handsearched conference reports and trial registries. There was no language restriction.
We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with participants of any age and menopausal status who had undergone surgery for EOC and, after diagnosis and treatment, used any regimen and duration of HRT compared with placebo or no hormone therapy. We also included trials comparing different regimens or duration of administration of HRT.
Two review authors independently identified studies that met the inclusion criteria. They used Covidence to extract study characteristics, outcome data and to assess methodological quality of the included studies.
Our search strategy identified 2617 titles, of which 2614 titles were excluded. Three studies, involving 350 women, met our inclusion criteria. Two of the studies included pre and postmenopausal women, and the third only included premenopausal women. The overall age range of those women included in the studies was 20 to 89.6 years old, with a median follow-up ranging from 31.4 months to 19.1 years. The geographical distribution of participants included Europe, South Africa and China. All stages and histological subtypes were included in two of the studies, but stage IV disease had been excluded in the third. The three included studies used a variety of HRT regimens (conjugated oestrogen with or without medroxyprogesterone and with or without nylestriol) and HRT administrations (oral, patch and implant), In all studies, the comparisons were made versus women who had not received HRT. The studies were at low or unclear risk of selection and reporting bias, and at high risk of performance, detection and attrition bias. The certainty of the evidence was low for overall survival and progression-free survival, and very low for quality-of-life assessment, incidence of breast cancer, transient ischaemic attack (TIA), cerebrovascular accident (CVA) and myocardial infarction (MI). Meta-analysis of these studies showed that HRT may improve overall survival (hazard ratio (HR) 0.71, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.54 to 0.93; 350 participants, 3 studies; low-certainty evidence). Quality-of-life assessment by use of the EORTC-C30 questionnaire was performed only in one study. We are uncertain whether HRT improves or reduces quality of life as the certainty of the evidence was assessed as very low (mean difference (MD) 13.67 points higher, 95% CI 9.26 higher to 18.08 higher; 1 study; 75 participants; very low-certainty evidence). Likewise, HRT may make little or no difference to progression-free survival (HR 0.76, 95% CI 0.57 to 1.01; 275 participants, 2 studies; low-certainty evidence). We are uncertain whether HRT improves or reduces the incidence of breast cancer (risk ratio (RR) 2.00, 95% CI 0.19 to 21.59; 225 participants, 2 studies; very low-certainty evidence); TIA (RR 5.00, 95% CI 0.24 to 102.42; 150 participants, 1 study; very low-certainty evidence); CVA (RR 0.67, 95% CI 0.11 to 3.88; 150 participants, 1 study; very low-certainty evidence); and MI (RR 0.20, 95% CI 0.01 to 4.10; 150 participants, 1 study; very low-certainty evidence). The incidence of gallstones was not reported in the included studies.
Hormone replacement therapy may slightly improve overall survival in women who have undergone surgical treatment for EOC, but the certainty of the evidence is low. HRT may make little or no difference to quality of life, incidence of breast cancer, TIA, CVA and MI as the certainty of the evidence has been assessed as very low. There may be little or no effect of HRT use on progression-free survival. The evidence in this review is limited by imprecision and incompleteness of reported relevant outcomes and therefore the results should be interpreted with caution. Future well-designed RCTs are required as this is an important area to women experiencing menopausal symptoms following surgical treatment for ovarian cancer, especially as doctors are often reluctant to prescribe HRT in this scenario. The evidence in this review is too limited to support or refute that HRT is very harmful in this population.

Copyright © 2020 The Cochrane Collaboration. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.