Navigating menopause is already challenging, but for ovarian cancer survivors, it can feel even more daunting. The treatments for ovarian cancer often trigger early menopause, leading to sudden and intense symptoms. Our survey revealed that 71% of women were caught off guard and unprepared for the significant impact of menopause. This blog is here to help those affected by ovarian cancer, guiding them through the transition. We’ll unravel the connection between ovarian cancer treatments and menopausal changes, explore common symptoms, address potential risks, and offer effective management strategies. Whether you’re a survivor or a caregiver, this guide provides the support and practical advice needed to handle this life change with confidence and clarity.

 

Menopause Following Ovarian Cancer Treatment 

Treatments for ovarian cancer, including surgery and chemotherapy, can lead to early menopause. When the ovaries are surgically removed (oophorectomy) or damaged by chemotherapy, the body’s natural production of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone drops quickly, triggering menopause. This sudden hormonal change can bring on menopausal symptoms more abruptly and intensely than natural menopause.

 

Symptoms Specific to Ovarian Cancer After Menopause 

After menopause, whether it happens naturally or because of ovarian cancer treatment, your body goes through significant hormonal changes. When your ovaries stop working, the drop in hormone levels can change how ovarian cancer symptoms show up. It’s important to know the difference between regular menopausal symptoms and those specific to ovarian cancer, as they could signal a recurrence. We’re passionate that every person affected by menopause as a result of cancer treatment gets the help they deserve to manage their symptoms. We believe that more information and preparation for menopause is necessary from the start so you know what to expect and when to seek the right help.

Symptoms like ongoing bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, trouble eating or feeling full quickly, and urinary issues can occur after menopause. Post-menopausal bleeding isn’t usually linked to ovarian cancer but is worth getting checked out immediately.

Because hormone levels drop after menopause, it can be hard to tell if symptoms are from menopause or something more serious like ovarian cancer. Keeping an eye on these symptoms and having regular check-ups with your doctor is important.

Stay aware and proactive about your health, and if you notice anything unusual, don’t wait to seek medical advice. 

 

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and Ovarian Cancer 

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) can help ease menopausal symptoms like hot flushes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness, but it can be tricky for some ovarian cancer survivors. HRT adds hormones like estrogen and progesterone to your body which can help with menopause, but for some ovarian cancers with a hormone receptor-positive status giving HRT back might affect the risk of cancer recurrence.

We know it can be complicated to find out if you’re a good candidate for HRT after your type of ovarian cancer and we also know experts’ opinions can divide at times. The best thing you can do is ask your team of doctors if they can point you to the research and explain it to you so you can make an informed treatment decision. 

If hormone replacement therapy isn’t a good option for you, don’t worry – there are other ways to manage menopausal symptoms, like non-hormonal treatments and lifestyle changes. Finding the right approach with your healthcare provider means you get the best care tailored to your situation. Have a listen to The Menopause And Cancer podcast  here, as most of our episodes look at non-hormonal treatment options.

 

Managing Menopause Symptoms After Ovarian Cancer

For a complete overview of all of your treatment options watch our Menopause And Cancer Crash Course on YouTube here. 

Combining all these approaches can help manage menopausal symptoms effectively. Always consult your healthcare provider to tailor these strategies to your specific needs and make sure they complement your ongoing cancer care.

For ovarian cancer survivors, managing menopausal symptoms without Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is possible and often necessary. Here are some effective non-hormonal strategies:

 

Lifestyle Changes:

  • Exercise: Regular physical activity, such as walking, yoga, or swimming, can help reduce symptoms like mood swings, fatigue, and sleep disturbances. Exercise also boosts endorphins, improving mood and energy levels.

 

Alternative Therapies: (here are some, there are many more)

  • Acupuncture: Some women find relief from hot flashes and night sweats through acupuncture.
  • Herbal Supplements: Black cohosh, red clover, and soy isoflavones are popular for reducing menopausal symptoms. However, always speak to your doctor before starting any supplements to ensure they don’t interfere with your cancer treatment.

 

Supportive Treatments:

  • Vaginal Moisturisers and Lubricants: These can help with vaginal dryness and discomfort during intercourse.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Some studies have found that CBT can be effective in reducing hot flushes and night sweats in women, as well as managing mood swings, anxiety, and depression. It teaches coping strategies and stress management techniques.
  • Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Practices like meditation, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation can reduce stress and improve sleep quality.

 

Making Informed Choices About HRT

Deciding whether to try Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) after ovarian cancer should involve open discussions with your healthcare team. Talk openly with your doctor or oncologist about your concerns and questions. They can give personalised advice based on your medical history, cancer treatment, and individual needs.

Ask about the pros and cons of HRT for you specifically. Your healthcare team can also discuss other options if HRT isn’t the right fit. Everyone’s experience with ovarian cancer, HRT and menopause is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. 

 

Finding Your Way Forward 

After ovarian cancer, handling menopause means finding what works best for you. Lifestyle tweaks, alternative therapies, and supportive treatments can help ease symptoms without hormones. When considering Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), talk openly with your healthcare team; they’re there to offer personalised advice so you can tackle menopause feeling good and confident.

 

Connect to other charities

The Eve Appeal offers a free expert nurse-led gynae cancer support telephone line. Phone up here.

 

Share Your Story

We’d love to hear from you. If you have experiences, questions, or concerns about navigating menopause after ovarian cancer join our Facebook group here. Your insights could offer invaluable support to others facing similar challenges. Don’t miss out on future resources and updates on related topics.

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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Improve your mental and physical wellbeing. You can join our services, workshops, programs and events at any time during and after your active cancer treatment. We welcome people affected by all types of cancers.  Join us if you would like to be better informed about your choices of how to navigate the menopause and if you are seeking the support of a community who ‘gets you’.

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