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What Cancer Survivors Should Know About Early Menopause

Beating cancer into remission is a major achievement. However, even after the disease has been overcome, survivors find their lives are forever changed. “When cancer treatment ends, people begin a new chapter in their lives, one that can bring hope and happiness, but also worries and fear,” writes the American Cancer Society.

Survivors may find themselves worrying about a cancer recurrence, dealing with the high financial costs associated with treatment, or living with the side effects of that treatment.

For female survivors, one of those side effects can be early menopause. “Women undergoing procedures for cancer prevention or treatment may begin menopause earlier than other women,” explains Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

What constitutes early menopause? “Most women begin menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, with an average age of 51 in the United States,” according to Healthline.

Facing menopause so soon after cancer may feel daunting. However, there is no shortage of information and support available. Below is some helpful information on the topic.

When does cancer treatment cause early menopause?

“Some cancer treatments and risk-reducing procedures can cause the ovaries to stop working,” writes Memorial Sloan Kettering. This can include surgery to remove the ovaries, chemotherapy that damages the ovaries, and radiation focused on the pelvic area, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Hormone therapy is sometimes a cause, as well: “These treatments used to treat breast and uterine cancers can often cause early menopause.”

What are the immediate effects of early menopause?

The effects of early menopause are the same symptoms as natural menopause. These range from hot flashes and mood changes to problems sleeping and a decreased sex drive. For more information on what to expect, read the article “What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Menopause?” published by the National Institute on Aging.

What are the long-term effects of early menopause?

Women who experience early menopause also face increased risk for other health issues. These can range from osteoporosis and heart disease to stress and anxiety – and are a result of the low estrogen levels, says Healthline.

How can I treat early menopause?

Cancer survivors treating early menopause can use the same methods as those who didn’t have a cancer diagnosis. One option is hormone replacement therapy. “Supplemental estrogen and progestin can help replace some of the reproductive hormones your body can no longer make on its own. They’re often taken until the average age of menopause (about 50) to manage the uncomfortable symptoms of early menopause,” writes Healthline. Additional options include taking calcium and vitamin D supplements and/or speaking with a therapist to cope with stress. Consult with your doctor to see which treatment or treatments are best for you.

For those still feeling apprehensive, there is good news: “Women facing menopause at a younger age need not fear it,” says Memorial Sloan Kettering gynecologic surgeon Jennifer Mueller. In her article “5 Myths about Cancer-Related Early Menopause,” Dr. Mueller addresses misconceptions about the severity of early menopause. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with late-stage cancer, Fifth Season Financial may be able to help. Our Funds For Living Program allows clients to receive an advance on their life insurance policy while preserving funds for beneficiaries to receive in the future. To learn more about the program, contact us today.

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