Menopause and Breast Cancer
“HOT FLASHES ANYONE? Thoughts from a 33 year old survivor: “It is bad enough to go through menopause once, but twice in your life? You gotta be kidding me!
My first menopause was chemically induced by chemotherapy. I remember sitting with my wig on sweating profusely in August as I sit outside at a restaurant. All I can think of is the sweet relief of peeling my wig off. Do I take it off now? No! I refuse to be a walking advertisement for cancer.
Do I just sit here and act as though people can’t see the beads of sweat running down my face? Yes… let’s pretend this is not happening. Let’s pretend my skin is not on fire.
9 months later my ovaries are removed. They say surgically induced menopause is tough but I did it once before, I can do it again…I am so uncomfortable I want to jump out of my skin. They say this can last a couple years…”
Most women naturally go into menopause when they’re in their 40s or 50s. That’s because as a woman ages, she has fewer reproductive eggs and her estrogen and progesterone levels decline. After 12 months of not having a menstrual cycle, she’s considered to be in menopause.
But for women undergoing breast cancer treatment, menopause can start earlier and feel more extreme. “Breast cancer treatment can speed up the process and intensify the symptoms,” says Bora Lim, M.D.
Typical menopausal symptoms include hot flashes, mood swings and weight gain. Some women also experience changes in their metabolism and cholesterol levels.
Here are seven things women with breast cancer should know about menopause.
Chemotherapy can cause temporary menopause
Chemotherapy fights cancer by attacking any rapidly growing cells. Women receiving chemotherapy – regardless of the type of cancer they’ve been diagnosed with – are at risk of the drugs attacking the ovaries. “Chemotherapy basically puts the ovaries to sleep,” Lim says. The ovaries stop processing the eggs, the woman stops having a period and she goes into temporary menopause.