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Some breast cancer treatments |can affect the way the ovaries work, resulting in women starting their menopause earlier than expected. Other treatments may cause a temporary menopause or side effects similar to menopausal symptoms.
This is Diane's story of breast cancer and menopausal symptoms.
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This information is about menopausal symptoms that can occur because of breast cancer treatment. It gives suggestions on coping with these symptoms.
Before menopause the ovaries produce the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which control a woman’s monthly cycle (periods). Women naturally stop having regular periods usually between their mid-40s and mid-50s. The menopause happens when the ovaries stop producing the hormones oestrogen and progesterone.
This change in hormone levels can cause a number of symptoms, including:
Women may have just one of these symptoms or more, and they can vary from mild to more severe.
The menopause, and particularly an early menopause, may also cause other effects on the body. These include thinning of the bones (osteoporosis) and heart disease. These effects develop at different rates in different people. Their tendency to develop is, at least partly, passed on from your parents (genetically determined).
Chemotherapy| may bring on an early menopause, especially in women who are closer to their natural menopause.
Breast cancer| treatment often involves hormonal therapy| to block the effects of oestrogen on breast cancer cells, or to reduce oestrogen levels. These hormonal treatments may cause menopausal symptoms or a temporary menopause.
Sometimes breast cancer treatment may involve a woman having her ovaries removed with surgery|. Rarely, a woman may have radiotherapy| to the ovaries to stop them working. These treatments cause permanent menopause.
Infertility can be very difficult for women to deal with, especially if you wanted to have children or to add to your family. It can be particularly hard when you're already coping with cancer. We have more information about fertility in women|.
Some of the organisations| we list support to women with fertility problems. Talking about your feelings with your partner (if you have one), family and friends, or your nurse or doctor may be helpful. If you feel you need more help you can talk to your doctor about a referral to a counsellor.
Content last reviewed: 1 January 2013
Next planned review: 2015
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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