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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Rate of abnormal vaginal bleeding and contraception counseling in women undergoing chemotherapy

  • Author(s): Cutler, KE
  • Creinin, MD
  • Balagtas, JMS
  • Hou, MY
  • et al.

©2016 Frontline Medical Communications. Background Reproductive-age women who are undergoing cancer treatment are at risk for heavy menstrual bleeding, unintended pregnancy, and have a contraindication to estrogen-containing products.The incidence of vaginal bleeding and contraception use is not known. Objective To describe clinical practices regarding menstrual suppression, estimate the incidence of vaginal bleeding complaints, and investigate contraceptive counseling and provision in women undergoing chemotherapy. Methods We performed a chart review using ICD-9 codes to identify women aged 14-40 years who received chemotherapy at our institution during July 2008-June 2013. Electronic medical records were examined for menstrual suppression therapy, contraception counseling, and abnormal vaginal bleeding. Results We identified 137 women for this study. 24 (18%) received prophylactic menstrual suppression counseling, of whom 17 (71%) initiated treatment, primarily with combined oral contraceptives, all prescribed by hematologist-oncologists. During the first 6 months of chemotherapy, 36 women (26%) complained of abnormal vaginal bleeding, including 10 women who were on prophylactic treatment. 19 women noted moderate to severe bleeding. 11 (12%) women received contraceptive counseling before chemotherapy, all from hematologist-oncologists; 86 women (63%) initiated chemotherapy without a documented contraceptive method. Limitations Data were generated from billing codes, so all eligible women may not have been included. Conclusions Reproductive-age women undergoing chemotherapy may not receive adequate contraception and menstrual suppression counseling. We encourage consulting gynecologists, especially family planning specialists, at the time of cancer diagnosis to support women with decisions about menstrual suppression and contraception.

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