Early Menopause and Breast Cancer: What You Need to Know
Going through breast cancer is a very emotional experience. Treatment can take its toll—on you AND your body. Life-saving treatments like chemotherapy, ovarian shutdown, and bilateral ovary removal are excellent tools to shrink tumors and starve cancer cells, but can also cause early menopause.1
What Is Menopause?
Menopause happens when you’ve gone an entire year without getting your period. Typically occurring between ages 45-55, this transition stage in your body can last several years.2
Something essential to note: “Menopause is not a disease or disorder. This time in a woman’s life is often full of other transitions [besides] physical ones.”—National Institute of Aging. “Women may be caring for aging parents or relatives, supporting their children as they move into adulthood, or taking on new responsibilities at work.”2
Though some women won’t experience the range of symptoms, others deal with hot flashes, insomnia, painful sex, and more. When it comes to women with breast cancer, this journey speeds up, creating early menopause.
Breast Cancer May Cause Early Menopause
How does breast cancer trigger early menopause? The short answer: low levels of estrogen caused by treatment. “The change in hormone levels and estrogen depletion caused by stopping hormone replacement therapy or undergoing chemotherapy or hormonal therapy can trigger side effects commonly associated with menopause.”2
“Early menopause” doesn’t sound all that great. Like, dealing with breast cancer isn’t enough, right? We understand. It adds another layer to that emotional toll. We’re here to help you manage these menopausal changes as they happen. You CAN take control even if it feels like everything is out of your hands.
How to Handle Common Early Menopause Symptoms
UCSF Health recommends talking to your doctor or nurse about what’s best for YOU when managing these symptoms. Ask them any questions you might have! Here are some tips to take control:3
- Hot Flashes
a. Avoid too much spicy food, caffeine, and alcohol. These are big triggers.
b. Wear cotton pajamas to stay cool, and keep a fan in your bedroom.
- Trouble Sleeping
a. Try to only go to bed when you’re tired.
b. Get up at the same time every day even if you didn’t get a good night’s sleep.
c. Avoid caffeinated foods and drinks such as coffee, cola, and chocolate at bedtime.
- Anxiety And Mood Changes
a. Try exercises you enjoy three times a week.
b. Get your body’s relaxation response in gear by using deep abdominal breathing.
c. Talk to a mental health professional for extra support.
- Memory Problems
a. Make to-do lists.
b. Keep a detailed calendar.
c. Designate places for important things, including your keys, wallet, and glasses.
A Breast Cancer Diagnosis Typically Happens During Menopause
We’ve gone over how treatments trigger early menopause. But for menopausal women not currently dealing with breast cancer, it’s crucial to note that your cancer risk increases at your age.4 Here is a great resource to learn more!
Menopause Happens. Let’s Talk About It.
All women deal with menopause. You’re not alone! Share this information with your friends and family. Talking about it is a great way to find support.
The content in this piece is for information purposes only and is not intended to be medical advice. Please contact your medical professional for specific advice regarding your health and treatment. This information may be relevant in the U.S. and other markets and is not intended as a product solicitation or promotion where such activities are prohibited. Because Hologic materials are distributed through websites, eBroadcasts, and tradeshows, it is not always possible to control where such materials appear. For specific information on what products may be available in a particular country, please write to email@example.com.
1. How Menopause Can Happen With Breast Cancer Treatments. BreastCancer.Org. https://www.breastcancer.org/treatment-side-effects/menopause/types/cancer-treatment-caused. Accessed March 2023.
2. What Is Menopause? National Institute of Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-menopause#:~:text=Menopause%20is%20a%20point%20in,between%20ages%2045%20and%2055. Accessed March 2023.
3. Menopause and Breast Cancer. University of California San Fransisco Health. https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/menopause-and-breast-cancer#:~:text=Breast%20cancer%20treatment%20often%20causes,effects%20commonly%20associated%20with%20menopause. Accessed March 2023.
4. How Does Menopause Affect Cancer Risk? The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/FOH-menopause-cancer.h20-1589835.html#:~:text=How%20does%20the%20age%20at,the%20uterus%20and%20breast%20tissue. Accessed March 2023.