Menopausal Symptoms: Control Them Before They Control You

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Menopause occurs when a woman’s ovaries stop releasing eggs. Usually, this happens naturally during a woman’s mid-40s to mid-50s. As a result, a woman’s body makes less oestrogen and progesterone. With reductions in these hormones, menstrual periods become irregular and eventually stop.

Menopause from cancer treatment. Some cancer treatments cause menopause, often at an earlier age than expected.

These treatments include: Surgical removal of the ovariesChemotherapyHormone or anti-oestrogen treatments. Radiation therapy to the pelvic area.

Symptoms of menopause

Symptoms and signs of menopause from cancer treatment depend on the treatments you are receiving and your health history. Possible symptoms and signs include:

1. Hot flashes. These are sudden instances of body heat, flushing, and sweating. They usually go away after a few minutes.

2. Night sweats

3. Vaginal dryness, itching, irritation, or discharge.

4. Painful sexual intercourse.

5. Reduced desire for sexual activity.

6. Thinning of the bones, called osteoporosis

7. Incontinence, which is difficulty with bladder control.

8. Depression and mood swings

9. Insomnia

Hot flashes are more common for women receiving these treatments:

Chemotherapy

Tamoxifen (Nolvadex)

Aromatase inhibitors, such as anastrozole (Arimidex), exemestane (Aromasin), and letrozole (Femara).

Managing the symptoms of menopause

Relieving side effects is an important part of cancer care and treatment. This is called palliative care or supportive care. Talk with your health care team about menopause symptoms you experience. Mention new symptoms or changes in symptoms.

Remember, many unpleasant symptoms of menopause eventually decrease and disappear.

Options for managing specific symptoms of menopause are listed below.

Ways to manage hot flashes

Exercise

Practice relaxation techniques, like deep breathing and other strategies to reduce stress.

Keep room temperatures cool.

Layer clothing to adjust during and after hot flashes

Additionally, some women may consider taking medicine or supplements. However, talk with your doctor about these options. Ask about the risks and benefits.

Ways to manage or prevent osteoporosis

Perform weight-bearing exercises, such as walking 20 to 30 minutes per day.

Maintain a healthy body weight

Take vitamin D and calcium supplements.

Ask about the recommended doses, based on your age.

In addition, your doctor may recommend a bone density test or medicine.

Ways to manage vaginal dryness

Use vaginal lubricants, estrogens creams, or an estrogens ring. Choose a product that works best for you and your partner. You may try a few before finding the right one.

Talk with your doctor before using an estrogens ring. It may not be the best choice. Particularly if you have estrogens receptor-positive breast cancer.

Hormone therapy

Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) delivers estrogens and progesterone or progestin. Progestin is a form of progesterone made in a laboratory.

MHT may help relieve symptoms like hot flashes and osteoporosis. However, doctors don’t recommend the treatment for most women. Women receiving MHT may have increased risk of certain conditions.

For severe symptoms, doctors may recommend low doses of MHT for a short time. Meanwhile, women who have had a hysterectomy may receive estrogen-only MHT. A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus.

The risks and benefits of MHT are different for each woman. If you are considering the treatment, talk with your health care team. Share your symptoms and medical history. Ask about other options for relieving menopausal symptoms.

By

Dr. Ankesh Sahetya, Gynaecologist,