Menopause is the end of ovulation, menstruation, and fertility, and it usually happens between 45 and 55 years of age. Breast cancer treatments such as some chemotherapies and radiation treatments for breast cancer can damage the ovaries and cause induced menopause – women receiving such treatments may go through menopause earlier. Moreover, medications used to treat and prevent breast cancer (tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors) further decrease estrogen levels.
Estrogen is the predominant female sexual hormone – it has an effect in many cells, tissues, and organs of your body. When it decreases rapidly, as in induced menopause, you may notice rapid changes and bothersome symptoms to varying degrees, such as:
- Vasomotor symptoms (VMS) – hot flashes and night sweats (hot flashes that happen during sleep)
- Brain fog (memory and concentration changes)
- Changes in metabolism and fat distribution – weight gain and change in body-shape
- Difficulty sleeping
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Dry, itchy, crawling skin
- Mood swings
- Sadness and tearfulness
- Depressed mood
- Anxiety and worry
- Decreased self-esteem and self-confidence
- Vaginal dryness, discomfort and pain with sex, itching, burning, soreness, urinary problems such as incontinence and urinary tract infections (UTIs), and decreased sex drive.
If these symptoms negatively affect your quality of life then you should seek treatment.
If your breast cancer was estrogen-sensitive then you may not be a candidate for menopause hormone therapy (MHT), aka HRT, the most effective treatment for menopause symptoms. But there are other treatment options such as:
- cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
Estrogen has a protective effect on the heart, bones, and brain. When estrogen levels fall, as in menopause, you’re at increased risk of diseases such as osteoporosis, heart attacks, strokes, and dementia.
Lifestyle interventions—such as eating a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise (at least 5 days a week, 30 minutes a day), sleeping properly, non-smoking, low consumption of alcohol, and consuming calcium and vitamin D supplementation—may help decrease disease risk.
You’ve probably heard this before: “you must be your own best advocate”. Many healthcare providers are not trained in menopause. Unless they work in this space, they may not have the best up-to-date information on how to help women with induced menopause.
As a pharmacist and NCMP—a menopause practitioner certified by the North American Menopause Society (NAMS)—I can help you manage your induced menopause and improve your quality of life and relationships. If you’d like to find out how then book a FREE Discovery Call.