Menopause Caused by Cancer Treatment

Author: OncoLink Team
Last Reviewed:

What is menopause brought on by cancer treatments?

Menopause is when your menstrual cycles (periods) end. Menopause can be artificially induced (brought on early on purpose) through surgery to remove the ovaries or through chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or hormonal therapy.

When the levels of hormones normally produced by the ovaries suddenly drop, menopause happens. Symptoms of menopause include:

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

Many of the treatments that cause induced menopause lower hormone levels on purpose (intentionally). Replacing estrogen or other hormones may have negative effects on cancer treatment, so talk with your care team before considering hormone replacement therapy.

How is it managed?

Self-care actions can minimize the frequency and severity of the symptoms of menopause.

To reduce the effects of hot flashes, sweats, and vaginal dryness:

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods, tight clothing, and cigarette smoke.
  • Exercise daily.
  • Lower stress as much as possible.
  • Stay cool - keep your bedroom cool at night, use fans, and wear light clothing in layers.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • 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?

Menopause symptoms that are not troubling you do not need medical treatment. If symptoms are affecting your life, there are self-care actions and prescription medications that can help. Speak to your care provider about your concerns.

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.

MedLinePlus. Cancer treatment - early menopause. 2016. Found at: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000912.htm

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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