Menopause and cervical cancer are major health issues that can often overlap, creating many questions. This article looks at how cervical cancer affects menopause, especially when treatments like hysterectomy and radiation can bring on or change menopausal symptoms. We’ll also explore how hormone replacement therapy (HRT) might help manage these symptoms and whether it’s a good idea. We’ll also discuss how treatments for cervical cancer can impact menstrual cycles and overall hormonal balance. Understanding these links is key to making informed health decisions.

 

Can Cervical Cancer Cause Early Menopause? 

Yes, cervical cancer can cause early menopause, mainly because of treatments like radiation and surgery. Radiation therapy to the pelvic area can damage the ovaries, reducing their ability to produce hormones like estrogen. This can lead to early menopause, bringing an array of symptoms to deal with. One of our recent surveys, in collaboration with University College London Hospital, found that 90.4% of the women surveyed entered menopause as a direct result of their cancer treatment. 

Similarly, a hysterectomy, especially if it includes removing the ovaries, directly causes menopause. The ovaries are essential for hormone production, and their removal stops the production of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, triggering menopause immediately, no matter the patient’s age. This sudden change can make menopausal symptoms more intense because the body doesn’t have time to adjust gradually. Understanding how these treatments affect menopause helps patients and doctors manage the symptoms better.

 

The Impact of Cervical Cancer on Menstrual Cycles 

Does cervical cancer stop periods? Cervical cancer itself typically doesn’t stop periods, but the treatments can have a significant impact on menstrual cycles. Surgical treatments, such as a hysterectomy, directly stop periods by removing the uterus. If the ovaries are also removed, it leads to immediate menopause, stopping menstrual cycles permanently.

Menstrual cycles can also be affected by radiation therapy to the pelvic area, as it damages the ovaries and reduces their hormone production. This can lead to irregular periods or stop them altogether, potentially causing early menopause. Chemotherapy, another common treatment, can disrupt menstrual cycles temporarily or permanently, depending on the patient’s age and the specific drugs used. Understanding these potential changes is important for patients managing their reproductive health during and after cervical cancer treatment.

Our medical advisor Dr. Talaulikar adds,’ With chemotherapy, you can quickly enter menopause within three or four months. This happens because chemotherapy drugs are designed to seek and destroy dividing cells and do not differentiate between cancer cells and the follicles containing a woman’s eggs, which are also very active. As a result, these follicles are destroyed during treatment. For a woman around 20 years old, who has a large number of eggs remaining and only undergoes mild chemotherapy, her egg store will reduce. But for a woman in her late thirties, chemotherapy can wipe out her entire store of eggs.’

 

HRT and Cervical Cancer 

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be a complex issue for all cancer survivors. The use of HRT and cervical cancer treatments often overlap, raising questions about safety and effectiveness. For many women, treatments for cervical cancer, such as hysterectomy and radiation, can induce early menopause, causing symptoms like hot flushes, mood swings, and vaginal dryness. Vaginal dryness – which is due to having a low level of oestrogen – can lead to itching and painful sex. HRT can help reduce these symptoms by replenishing hormones like estrogen and progesterone.

When considering HRT for cervical cancer survivors, it’s important to weigh the potential benefits against the risks. A major concern is whether HRT could stimulate any remaining cancer cells or contribute to cancer recurrence. However, current research suggests that, for cervical cancer specifically, HRT doesn’t significantly increase the risk of recurrence. This is partly because cervical cancer isn’t typically hormone-driven, unlike some breast and ovarian cancers. In their book ‘The Complete Guide to POI and early menopause’, the authors write that HRT is a possibility for cervical cancer survivors. Many people tell us that no one spoke to them about menopause and how to manage this, and it took them years to get onto a treatment that’s helped, whether HRT or something else. 

Each patient’s situation is unique. Factors such as the type of cervical cancer, stage at diagnosis, and individual health history, play key roles in determining whether HRT is the right fit. Survivors must have detailed discussions with their healthcare providers to tailor a treatment plan that addresses their specific needs.

While HRT can be beneficial for managing menopausal symptoms in cervical cancer survivors, it’s important to take the time to consider all your options and get personalised medical advice to make sure you choose the safest and most effective approach for you. Understanding the balance of benefits and risks is important to making informed decisions about HRT and cervical cancer management.

 

Making Decisions About HRT After Cervical Cancer

When it comes to HRT after cervical cancer, considering personal and medical factors is essential. Start by talking with your healthcare provider about your medical history, the type and stage of your cervical cancer, and the treatments you’ve had. This helps create a plan that fits your needs.

Your doctor can help you weigh the benefits of HRT, like relief from hot flushes and mood swings, against any potential risks.

Stay informed about the latest research on HRT and cervical cancer, and ensure your decisions are based on what’s best for your unique situation. This approach helps you manage menopausal symptoms effectively and maintain your overall health.

 

Managing Menopause Post Cervical Cancer 

In summary, managing menopause after cervical cancer involves understanding the impacts of treatments like hysterectomy and radiation, which can trigger early menopause. While hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can ease symptoms, it’s important to weigh its pros and cons, especially when cervical cancer is involved. Getting personalised advice from healthcare professionals based on your health status and history is key. By doing this, you can deal with what comes with menopause and cervical cancer treatment effectively, making sure you get the best possible outcomes for your health and well-being. 

 

Learn More and Empower Yourself

We have put together a Menopause after Cancer crash course on YouTube to give an overview of all your treatment options, from hormonal treatments to complementary therapies and everything in between. You can watch it here.

 

Let’s Connect and Learn Together

If you have stories or any questions about handling menopause after cervical cancer, then join our vibrant Facebook group and share your experiences with others facing similar challenges. Your insights could offer valuable support and guidance to fellow members on their journey. Stay in the loop with the latest insights and updates on women’s health topics by subscribing to our newsletter or tuning in to our podcast. Being empowered with knowledge and staying informed about the latest developments in managing menopause and cervical cancer will give you confidence in getting through this challenging time. 

Get your voice heard

Now, we want to hear from you. Share your experiences in our Facebook group, and let us know how you’d like to be supported during menopause. By listening to each other and offering a helping hand, we can create a caring and inclusive community for women going through this journey. Together, let’s stand by each other with compassion and kindness.

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