Actress Olivia Munn seen at an event.Share on Pinterest
Actress Olivia Munn is talking about undergoing treatment after a breast cancer diagnosis. Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images
  • Actress Olivia Munn revealed that she had been diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer last year.
  • In a new interview she talks about how her treatment involved medically-induced menopause.
  • This typical treatment duration period is 5 years.

Actress Olivia Munn is talking about her recovery from breast cancer and how her treatment has led to medically-induced menopause. Munn was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer last year.

“You realize cancer doesn’t care who you are; it doesn’t care if you have a baby or if you don’t have time,” the actress told People. “It comes at you, and you have no choice but to face it head-on.”

After her diagnosis, Munn said she had a lymph node dissection, a nipple delay procedure and a double mastectomy.

The cancer diagnosis came as a surprise to Munn since an earlier mammogram found she was clear and she had also tested negative for the BRCA cancer gene, which is associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Part of her treatment involves ovarian suppression, which has led to medically-induced menopause.

Medically induced menopause involving ovarian suppression is an approach that can be used to treat premenopausal patients who are diagnosed with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer.

This treatment is used because hormones can impact the chances of breast cancer recurrence. These types of cancers have proteins that bind to hormones like estrogen or progesterone, which can encourage the cancer to grow.

“Usually ovarian suppression is achieved by a hormonal injection that temporarily causes the ovaries to stop estrogen production and is often combined with oral endocrine therapies,” Dr. Melissa Accordino, a breast cancer specialist at Columbia’s Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, stated. “The decision to proceed with ovarian suppression is made based on various characteristics of an individual’s cancer (such as stage, grade, overall aggressiveness, along with other features) and is a decision made between the healthcare team and the individual patient.”

Patients who are treated with ovarian suppression and endocrine therapy are typically treated for at least 5 years, but sometimes longer based on the individual’s cancer characteristics and experience with the medication, Accordino added.

“For more aggressive breast cancers that have a higher risk of recurrence, it is recommended to add an injection (a GnRH agonist) that prevents the production of estrogen from the ovaries and puts women into medically induced menopause,” Dr. Mariya Rozenblit, a medical oncologist at the Smilow Cancer Hospital, explained.

Munn was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer, a rare type of breast cancer that is present in both breasts. It makes up only 1-3% of breast cancers.

“Every breast cancer is unique, and it’s important to correctly categorize the type of breast cancer an individual has in order to figure out the right treatment for that individual; one of the ways that doctors classify breast cancer is based on molecular subtype which accounts for hormone receptors (estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor), human epidermal growth factor (HER2), and other molecular markers,” said Accordino.

Luminal B breast cancer, which is Munn’s diagnosis, makes up about 15-20% of all breast cancer cases, and is hormone receptor-positive and can be either HER2 positive or negative.

“Luminal B tumors are a type of hormone receptor-positive tumors that tend to be a bit more faster growing,” Dr. Maryam Lustberg, the director of the Center for Breast Cancer at Yale Cancer Center and Smilow Cancer Hospital, stated. “They are still very much driven by estrogen-based pathways as luminal A tumors but are sometimes treated with more intensive type of systemic therapies including maximal estrogen suppression, targeted therapies and sometimes chemotherapy.”

While everyone experiences different symptoms during cancer therapy, there are typical side effects of ovarian suppression.

“The symptoms of medically induced menopause are similar to those experienced during natural menopause, although they can often be more severe due to the abrupt reduction in hormone levels,” said Dr. Francisco Esteva, the chief of hematology & medical oncology at Northwell Lenox Hill Hospital.

Common symptoms include:

  • hot flashes
  • night sweats
  • vaginal dryness
  • mood swings
  • decreased libido

“Other systemic effects may include bone density loss, changes in cholesterol levels, and increased risk of cardiovascular diseases,” Esteva noted.

Olivia Munn was recently diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer and part of her treatment is medically-induced menopause.

This type of treatment is for premenopausal patients with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer.

The typical duration period for this treatment is 5 years.