The Menopause and its Symptoms

Premature menopause can be brought on by many different cancer treatments- Chemotherapy, radiotherapy to the pelvis, Surgical removal of the ovaries, drug treatments to treat some breast cancers which are hormone driven.

If the menopause is induced in any of these ways, often the symptoms can be more intense.

As everyone has different diagnosis and treatments, this is just a basic guide to some of the symptoms you may experience but you should speak to your medical/ nursing team if you have any worries or questions.

Your main worry may be around loss of fertility, which may be temporary or permanent. This is definitely something that you should discuss with your team looking after you.

There are many symptoms, but it is important to remember that you may suffer hardly any, or you may have a combination of these areas listed below. These are some of the commonest reported symptoms.

For many of these symptoms there may be things you can do or medications you can take to help. You must however check with your medical team and they will be able to advise you on things that you may benefit from.

  • Hot Flushes/ night sweats
  • Insomnia/ disrupted sleep pattern
  • Weight Gain-especially around the waist area
  • Headaches
  • Changes to skin and hair
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Lower sex drive
  • Poor concentration/ memory loss
  • Fatigue/ low energy levels
  • Mood swings/ becoming irritable more easily
  • Reduced self esteem
  • Feeling tearful
  • Urinary – bladder changes/ infections
  • Vaginal dryness/ painful intercourse

Hot Flushes and night sweats

Many people think that this means you just get hot and sweaty. In reality this can vary from just occasionally feeling a bit warm through to having to get up several times a night to change clothing/ bedding or even showering. This is turn can lead to disturbed sleep patterns, therefore tiredness and irritability can become a problem.

Many women experience a heat within the core of their body which starts to spread within them, this can be a very strange experience and for some quite distressing if this leads to reddening of the face, sweating profusely, especially out in public or at work. One minute you’re red hot, then cold. Also, people tend to make jokes about it, mainly because they don’t fully understand. You can’t unless you have experienced it.

What can we do?

Simple things like layering clothes, wearing natural breathable materials, natural bedding materials.

Carrying a little spray bottle around with you with cool water or something like peppermint essence mixture to help make you feel more comfortable. Keep a spray at the side of the bed. Carry a mini fan in your bag at all times.

Keep a diary and see if there is a pattern or a trigger for your hot flushes. Food can be a trigger as can alcohol and caffeine.

Other Symptoms-What else can we do?

For many of these symptoms there may be things you can do or medications you can take to help. You must however check with your medical team and they will be able to advise you on things that you may benefit from.

Healthy eating and exercise may help with some symptoms. Giving up smoking.

Talking about the symptoms to health professionals or women in a similar situation may help you to come to terms with things.

Being aware that a lot of things you are experiencing may have an actual cause e.g. forgetfulness can be frustrating and upsetting but may be easier to deal with knowing this.

Partners very much are affected by women experiencing these symptoms and it is important that they are made aware of what is happening and why.

Further information can be found below

Chemotherapy and the menopause

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancers-in-general/cancer-questions/menopause-symptoms-after-chemotherapy

Breast cancer and the menopause

https://www.breastcancercare.org.uk/information-support/publication/menopausal-symptoms-breast-cancer-bcc18

Cervical Cancer treatments and the menopause

http://www.macmillan.org.uk/information-and-support/cervical-cancer/coping/side-effects-and-symptoms/menopausal-symptoms-sex-fertility/menopausal-symptoms.html

http://www.jostrust.org.uk/about-cervical-cancer/cervical-cancer/moving-forward-from-a-cancer-diagnosis/living-with-side-effects/early-menopause-and-hrt

Ovarian Cancer Treatments and the menopause

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/type/ovarian-cancer/living/recovering-from-ovarian-cancer-surgery#menopause

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