Hysterectomy and oophorectomy (the removal
of ovaries) are performed to treat various diseases in women, including cancer.
These procedures are accompanied not only
by a decline in oestrogen but also testosterone levels in the blood. Many women
who have undergone surgical removal of their uterus and/or ovaries can develop
symptoms of sexual dysfunction, fatigue, low mood and decreased muscle mass.
research from Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) has found that testosterone
administration in women with low testosterone levels, whom previously had
undergone hysterectomy with or without oophorectomy, was associated with
improvements in sexual function, muscle mass and physical function. This
research appears in the online issue of Menopause.
"Recently, there has been a lot of
interest in testosterone treatment in post-menopausal women for sexual
dysfunction and other various health conditions. However, no previous studies
have evaluated the benefits and negative effects of testosterone replacement
over a wide range of doses," explained Grace Huang, MD, a research
physician in BWH's Department of Endocrinology and lead author on this study.
Hormonal treatment with testosterone
There has been emerging interest in
supplemental hormonal treatment with testosterone for disrupted sexual
functioning, loss of muscle mass, physical limitations and osteoporosis in
postmenopausal women. In this study, researchers sought to determine the dose-dependent
effects of testosterone on sexual function, body composition, muscle
performance and physical function in women with low testosterone levels who had
undergone hysterectomy with or without oophorectomy.
They studied 71 women over the course of 24
weeks. Participants were randomly assigned either to placebo or one of four
testosterone doses given weekly. They found that the higher dose, 25mg, of
testosterone tested in this trial after 24 weeks was associated with gains in
sexual function, muscle mass and measures of physical performance.
"A primary concern with testosterone
therapy is that it can cause symptoms of masculinisation among women. These
symptoms include unwanted hair growth, acne and lower voice tone. It's
important to note that very few of these side effects were seen in our
study," explained Huang.
Currently the FDA has not approved
testosterone therapy for women because of inadequate long-term safety data. The
researchers note that longer term studies are needed to determine if testosterone
can be given safely to women to improve important health outcomes without
inducing other health risks such as heart disease and breast cancer.