The menopause is a natural phase for a woman’s life, and it occurs when her ovaries eventually stop producing oestrogen and she does not experience a period of one entire year. This usually happens between age 45 and 55 however, some cancer treatments and other various treatments trigger the menopause to occur earlier. This is called treatment-induced menopause.
What causes treatment-induced menopause?
- Surgical removal of the ovaries
- Radiation therapy, especially to the pelvic area
- Hormone replacement therapy
In the case that the ovaries are removed, a treatment-induced menopause is permanent. If a woman has lower defences against chemotherapy, particularly if she is older and nearing menopause, it is more likely to cause treatment-induced menopause.
Generally, the likelihood of treatment-induced menopause from chemotherapy, very much depends on the side effects of the drug, the dosage of the drug and the duration of the drug treatment. All said reasons can be the same for radiation therapy too. Various hormone replacement therapies can trigger symptoms such as irregular periods, night sweats, hot flushes, whilst other therapies can cause treatment-induced menopause.
What are the symptoms of treatment-induced menopause?
Symptoms of treatment-induced menopause can vary in duration, intensity and frequency. As each woman tends to experience the menopause very differently, depending on her health history, the symptoms she experiences will be different as a result but they will be the same as natural menopause symptoms, this can include:
- Irregular or no periods
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Night sweats
- Hot flushes
- Brain fog
- Memory loss
- Reduced libido
- General fatigue
- Joint pain
- Breast soreness
- Vaginal dryness
- Weight changes
- Dry, itchy skin
- Thinning hair
How is treatment-induced menopause diagnosed?
As well as symptoms being discussed, a routine physical examination of drawing blood will be performed by your doctor. Oestrogen levels may also be tested as this gives somewhat of an indication to the functioning of the ovaries. If the levels are low, this can suggest that the menopause has begun. Another test will be done to measure the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) as this causes the ovaries to produce oestrogen. When the ovaries slow their production of oestrogen, FSH levels increase above a certain level, which also tends to indicate the menopause.
Managing symptoms of treatment-based menopause
It is possible to care for yourself in treatment-based menopause by adapting to lifestyle changes such as:
- Embracing a wholesome food intake
- Frequent and gentle exercise
- Maintaining a healthy sleep pattern
- Practicing mindfulness
- Limiting your alcohol intake
- Avoiding smoking
- Keeping your bedroom cool at night
- Keeping a fan at the bedside
- Trying homeopathic remedies
If you have any further challenges, please seek advice from your doctor or health practitioner. They may be able to suggest appropriate treatments or refer you to someone that can.
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