Top Tips for Women who are going through cancer and experiencing early menopause
If your cancer treatment is likely to cause an early menopause do ask to be referred to a menopause specialist ideally before you have the treatment
Having an early menopause isn’t good for your health, your life expectancy is reduced by 2 years, you have an increased risk of heart disease, you are more likely to develop osteoporosis, there is an impact on the collagen structures including pelvis, skin, hair, you are likely to develop vaginal dryness, your libido may well be affected and some aspects of your memory function may also be affected. These long term health disadvantages can be reversed by taking appropriate treatment.
Ask for a DEXA bone density test. Take Vitamin D. Plenty of sunshine and lots of weight-bearing exercise.
Having an early menopause affects fertility. Egg production ceases and in most situations your only option for having a baby would be egg donation.
Early menopause affects your sexual health. Loss of oestrogen in the vaginal area makes it less responsive and the impact of reduced oestrogen on your brain directly affects your libido. Talk to your partner. Ask for referral to a counsellor.
Early menopause means less oestrogen in the vulva and vagina areas. This often causes dryness, soreness, loss of responsivity as well as generalised discomfort. You may experience more frequent urine infections. There are lots of things on the market to help you, go and find a good moisturiser such as Regale or Replens. Always use a lubricant when having sex. KY Jelly is not a lubricant that’s for doctors doing examinations but there are lots of lovely products like Yes, Silk and other excellent products. Look after your vulva and vagina with the same attention as you would look after your skin and face. Almost everybody can use topical oestrogens which will improve matters greatly particularly if used in combination with the moisturisers and lubricants. Topical oestrogen is not absorbed in the blood stream and is usually not detectable but makes a huge difference to the local tissues. Patients taking aromatase inhibitors are the one group of women who should not use topical oestrogens but almost every other cancer patient can use a topical oestrogen safely.
Consider hormone replacement therapy. If your menopause has come too early you are at risk from the long term health issues mentioned above. You may also have symptoms like hot flushes, night sweats, sleep disturbance which can all be resolved by taking hormone replacement therapy. All the long term health disadvantages of being rendered early menopause can be reversed by being on hormone replacement. Women who have had what we term hormone dependent cancers will not be prescribed oestrogen replacement therapy. ( These include most patients with breast cancers, patients with later stage cancers of the womb (although stage 1A endometrial cancers can have oestrogen therapy) and some sorts of ovarian cancer) But all other sorts of cancers, bowel cancers, cervical cancers, leukaemia etc patients are suitable for hormone replacement therapy and should indeed be prescribed oestrogen replacement.
Natural remedies abound but none have been shown to reverse the long-term health disadvantages of early menopause. Don’t forget however natural remedies doesn’t necessarily mean safer remedies and some herbal treatments like Black Cohosh, St John’s Wort can interact with other medications and are generally not to be recommended.
So try HRT if your cancer permits, as most do, if not please adopt healthy lifestyle with plenty of sunshine, weight-bearing exercise, a good well-balanced healthy diet including dairy products, fruit, vegetables.