How cancer treatment can trigger menopause

The “M” word… Menopause… yeah, we talk about upcoming changes in our life with our peers, and with our friends/family

The “M” word… Menopause… yeah, we talk about upcoming changes in our life with our peers, and with our friends/family members who are older then us to understand what “it” is like. But I’d had NO idea that women going through cancer treatments could be instantly put into menopause—yes, even young women. Nobody talks about this type of menopause.

There are three ways this can happen, and sometimes cancer patients have all three methods happening to them within several weeks of each other.

Method #1: Chemotherapy
On day 15 of the chemo treatments (a day after my second treatment), I was feeling just a tad green… then, my hair decided to fall out and my body went into chemo-induced menopause—all on the same day. I felt like a package of instant oatmeal you nuke in the oven… hot! hot! hot! I remember wearing my wig uptown for the first time, and almost fainting on the sidewalk when the first “hot flash” happened… it was almost a bald woman down situation. Not a pretty sight! But funny… I sat down on the edge of the sidewalk and started laughing (it was better then crying).

Method #2: Other drugs
For example, tamoxifen for breast cancer treatment.

Method #3: Surgery
Hysterectomy/ovary removal.

Most of the time, these methods are permanent for keeping women in menopause. For me, it wasn’t, which has been a surprise. I actually did a little happy dance when I got my period back. It was a signal to me that my body was slowly returning to its normal operating system and that it was starting to become stronger and was healing. Needless to say I was more then happy to lose the “flashes.”

For women who go through this “instant cancer menopause”—it is a very stressful time and there are limited medical interventions available that will complement their cancer treatments. Thus as patients we’re left making difficult decisions re: quality of life vs. quality of health. We live with the results of the choices we made, and keep our fingers and toes crossed that we made the right ones given the information we had at the time. These are not easy choices. We have had so many changes happening to our bodies all at the same time, it is difficult to consume and digest all the medical information that is given to us and know what is right for us.

So the real menopause still awaits me… I know this is going to sound crazy, but I’d kind of like to have my periods forever now. I can’t believe I said that!

Take care

Jordan is a Best Health reader and guest blogger. Find links to all of her posts on the Breast Cancer Blog home page.

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