Life After Cancer Treatment: Managing Menopause Symptoms

After chemotherapy, some women stop getting their periods every month - or stop getting them altogether. Some cancer treatments (and the medicines tamoxifen and raloxifene) can cause changes in women's bodies and reduce the amount of hormones they make. These changes can cause your periods to stop, as well as cause other symptoms of menopause (also called "the change" or "change of life").

Over time, some women will start getting their periods again (this is more likely for younger women), but others will not. Even though your doctor may have discussed early menopause with you, give yourself permission to mourn the loss of your fertility.

Some common signs of menopause are:

  • Irregular periods. One of the first signs is a change in your periods. They may become less regular. They could be lighter. Some women have short times of heavy bleeding. Sometimes, they stop all of a sudden.
  • Hot flashes. Hot flashes are often worse at night and can affect sleep or cause mood changes.
  • Problems with your vagina or bladder. Tissues in these areas become drier and thinner. You may be more likely to get vaginal infections. As you get older, you may also have problems holding your urine or urinary tract problems.
  • Lack of interest in having sex. These changes may make it hard for you to become sexually aroused.
  • Fatigue and sleep problems. You may feel tired or have trouble getting to sleep, getting up early, or getting back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night.
  • Memory and other problems, such as depression, mood swings, and irritability. Some of these, especially memory problems, may be related to growing older. There may be a connection between changes in your hormone levels and your emotions.
  • Other changes in your body. You may notice your waist getting bigger, less muscle and more fat around your body, or thinning and loss of elasticity of your skin.

Ask your doctor if you still need to use birth control, even if you are not getting your period.

Getting Help

See a gynecologist every year. Ask about:

  • Medicines, supplements, or other approaches that can help you manage menopause symptoms
  • Tests you should have (such as a bone density test to see if you are at risk for osteoporosis)
  • Ways you can reduce your chance of getting:
    • Osteoporosis. Menopause can put you at risk for losing bone tissue, which can weaken your bones and make them easier to break.
    • Heart disease. Menopause can also lead to higher cholesterol, which can increase your risk of diseases that affect your heart and blood vessels.

Relieving Hot Flashes

Here are some tips that have helped others deal with hot flashes:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Through exercise and diet, try to maintain a healthy weight. Exercise most days of the week, doing both weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening activities. Eat wisely. A balanced diet will provide most of the nutrients and calories your body needs to stay healthy.
  • If you are having hot flashes, try to write down when they happen and what may cause them. This may help you find out what to avoid. You may also want to:
    • Sleep in a cool room to avoid being awakened by hot flashes.
    • Dress in layers that you can take off if you get warm.
    • Use cotton sheets, and wear clothing that lets your skin "breathe."
    • Try having a cold drink or turning on a fan at the beginning of a hot flash.
    • Try not to eat a lot of spicy foods.
    • Limit the alcohol and caffeine you drink.

 

Retrieved from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/life-after-treatment/page4#c10 on June 5, 2018.

Document source: 
National Cancer Institute
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