Menopause Caused by Cancer Treatment

Author: Courtney Misher, MPH, BS R.T.(T)
Last Reviewed: August 09, 2022

Menopause is when your menstrual cycles (periods) end. This happens when your ovaries make lower levels of estrogen (sex hormones that help develop and maintain female reproductive health) or are removed.

Some cancer treatments can cause menopause. These include:

  • Surgery to remove your ovaries.
  • Chemotherapy.
  • Radiation therapy.
  • Hormonal therapy.
  • Bone marrow/stem cell transplant.

Menopause caused by some cancer treatments can be temporary or permanent. It is hard to know if yours will be temporary or permanent, but your provider may be able to tell you what you can expect.

What symptoms can I expect from early menopause?

Symptoms of early menopause caused by cancer treatment can be more severe than when menopause happens naturally. Symptoms include:

  • Hot flashes (a sudden warm feeling with blushing).
  • Night sweats.
  • Mood swings.
  • Vaginal dryness.
  • Decrease in sexual desire (libido).
  • Forgetfulness (lack of memory).
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Fatigue.

If you have any of these symptoms, talk with your care team. There are treatments that can help reduce the symptoms. Some of these treatments include hormones and some do not. Replacing estrogen or other hormones may not be safe for you, talk with your care team if you are thinking about hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

How can I manage the symptoms?

Self-care actions can help reduce the symptoms of menopause. To reduce the side effects:

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, tight clothing, and cigarette smoke.
  • Exercise daily.
  • Lower stress as much as possible.
  • Keep your mind active.
  • Stay cool - keep your bedroom cool at night, use fans, and wear light clothing in layers.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Use a water-based lubricant with sexual activity.

Talk with your care team before taking any medications, supplements, or herbs, as these may affect your hormone levels and interfere with your treatment.

When should I call my care team?

If symptoms are affecting your life and the self-care actions are not helping, speak to your provider. Your provider may be able to give you medication that can help.

References

Howard-Anderson J, Ganz PA, Bower JE, Stanton AL. Quality of life, fertility concerns, and behavioral health outcomes in younger breast cancer survivors: a systematic review. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 2012;104(5):386-405.

Loibl S, Lintermans A, Dieudonne AS, Neven P. Management of menopausal symptoms in breast cancer patients. Maturitas. 2011;68(2):148-54.

Mann E, Smith MJ, Hellier J, Balabanovic JA, Hamed H, Grunfeld EA, et al. Cognitive behavioural treatment for women who have menopausal symptoms after breast cancer treatment (MENOS 1): a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet Oncology. 2012;13(3):309-18.

Mitsis D, Beaupin LK, O'Connor T. Reproductive complications. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Kastan MB, Doroshow JH, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 43.

National Cancer Institute website. Sexual health issues in women with cancer. www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/sexuality-women. Updated January 23, 2020. Accessed January 25, 2021.

Shuster LT, Rhodes DJ, Gostout BS, Grossardt BR, Rocca WA. Premature menopause or early menopause: long-term health consequences. Maturitas. 2010;65(2):161-6.

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