Early menopause and symptoms

Some treatments for breast cancer can affect the way the ovaries work. As a result, you may start your menopause earlier than expected, or have menopausal symptoms due to the treatment itself.

The menopause happens because the ovaries stop producing the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. Women naturally stop having regular periods, usually at some time between their mid-40s and mid-50s.

Women who have had chemotherapy close to the age of natural menopause (around 50) may go into the menopause abruptly. Younger women in their thirties may find that their periods stop for a while and then come back again. However, they may have an earlier menopause than usual.

Women taking tamoxifen or hormonal drugs called aromatase inhibitors, such as anastrozole (Arimidex®), letrozole (Femara®) and exemestane (Aromasin®) may have side effects that are similar to menopausal symptoms.

Coping with early menopause or menopausal symptoms when you’re already dealing with cancer can be very difficult. You may have other troublesome treatment side effects to cope with too. There are different approaches that may help you to cope or to reduce menopausal symptoms. Choosing the right approach for you will depend on different factors and your preferences. This includes the possible risks and benefits of each approach, the type and severity of your symptoms and on other treatments that you may be taking.

We have more information on ways to manage menopausal symptoms.