Menopause is a natural stage in a woman’s life when the menstrual cycle ceases, and the ability to conceive a child is lost. The ovaries stop producing eggs and the hormone secretion also changes. While this takes place naturally in most women, forced menopause can occur during certain cancer treatments. The natural process of menopause can take several years but during cancer treatment, forced menopause can happen within a day or a few weeks due to surgery, chemotherapy, or pelvic radiation therapy. This is called surgical or forced menopause and can be either a permanent or temporary side effect of treatment.
The menstrual cycle and fertility in women is controlled largely by estrogen and progesterone hormones secreted by the ovaries. Cancer treatment could lead to reduced working of the ovaries and thus leading to menopauser. In some cases of cancer, a total hysterectomy (the surgical removal of the uterus) may need to be performed. In such cases, menopause occurs immediately. This is known as immediate surgical menopause. The same is true of bilateral oophorectomy as well (oophorectomy is the removal of the ovaries).
Ovaries can also be damaged by the drugs used in chemotherapy, and that could lead to permanent or temporary menopause. According to Delhi-based gynaecologist, Dr. Kaamna Mohan, “Cancer therapy like radiation and chemo can cause women to be menopausal for several months, but it is not uncommon to see them regain their fertility after a certain period of time.”
Hot flashes, fatigue, memory problems, irritability, and rapid changes in mood are some of the symptoms seen in women undergoing menopause. Some women also report a degree of weight gain, instances of vaginal dryness, and low libido along with menopause. While most of these symptoms are treatable by simple over-the-counter medications, it is important to consult with your doctor before self medication, so as to ensure that none of these medicines interfere with your ongoing cancer treatment.