Why Forced Menopause Can Occur with Cancer Treatment
The ovaries serve as a major hormone production center for estrogen and progesterone, two essential hormones that support the menstrual cycle and fertility. Cancer treatment can impair the function of the ovaries.
Women undergoing a total hysterectomy or bilateral oophorectomy to treat gynecological cancer undergo immediate surgical menopause. The ovaries are removed and there is an immediate decrease in the hormone levels in the body.
Chemotherapy can damage the ovaries, leading to a permanent or temporary menopause. This can cause a woman's period to stop for several months, even after treatment has ended. Some women are surprised to find their period to return months after treatment, so it important to use a birth control method until you know for certain that you are post-menopausal.
Radiation therapy to the pelvis is also a source of forced menopause. The effects can be permanent or temporary, based on the treatment regimen. Like chemotherapy, radiation therapy causes damage to the ovaries, limiting their function.
Physical Changes That Occur with Forced Menopause
Diminished hormone levels in the body can cause many physical and emotional changes. Women who undergo sudden menopause because of cancer treatment (especially surgical menopause) sometimes experience these effects more intensely than women who undergo menopause naturally.
Effects of Menopause
- hot flashes
- night sweats
- mood swings
- vaginal dryness
- low libido
Before taking any over-the-counter (OTC) menopause remedies or herbs, talk to your doctor. Some OTC products may interfere with your cancer treatment.