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Early Menopause and Breast Cancer

    • Breast cancer chemotherapy prompts many bodily changes, including early menopause in a large percentage of women undergoing treatment. If this is happening to you, please know that you are not alone. Read on for facts and tips to help you manage early menopause and breast cancer treatment simultaneously.

      • Most women who are 40 years or older will stop their menstrual periods while on chemotherapy. Only five to 25 percent will resume regular menstrual periods after finishing treatment.

      • Approximately 40 percent of women younger than 40 will stop their menstrual periods while on chemotherapy. About half will resume their regular cycles after finishing treatment.

      • The symptoms of treatment-induced or medical
        menopause are the same as natural menopause. However, they may be more severe since treatment-induced menopause comes on very quickly. This is particularly true for younger women.

      • Common menopause symptoms include:
        • Irregular periods

        • Hot flashes, a sign that the ovaries are no longer producing enough estrogen

        • Problems with your vagina or bladder as tissues in these areas become thinner and drier

        • Lack of interest in sex

        • Fatigue and sleep problems

        • Memory issues and other problems, such as depression, mood swings and irritability

        • Weight gain

      • There are a variety of non-hormonal approaches available to treat menopause symptoms, including:
        • For relief of hot flashes, avoid alcohol and caffeine. Wear layered cotton clothing. Try splashing cool water on your wrists. Some women find that Vitamin E eases hot flashes.

        • Try drinking warm milk, chamomile tea or teas that contain valerian at bedtime to help you sleep better.

        • Eat a well-balanced diet low in fat and high in fiber. Adding flaxseed, tofu and miso may provide additional relief, as they are dietary sources of estrogen. These are called phytoestrogens, and their safety should be discussed with your physician.

        • Try different relaxation techniques – such as visualization, deep breathing, massage or acupuncture – to help deal with irritability, stress or anxiety.

        • Water soluble lubricants can help relieve vaginal dryness.

        • Drink lots of water, wear cotton underwear, and urinate frequently to prevent bladder infections. Kegel exercises will also improve your bladder control.

      • Consult your health care provider before taking any additional medications or supplements and to discuss appropriate treatments for you.