Menopausal symptoms

Some treatments for cervical cancer cause an early menopause and you may have some menopausal symptoms. Your doctor may suggest you take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to replace the hormones your body no longer produces.

The most common menopausal symptoms are hot flushes and sweats. During a hot flush you may feel warmth in your face, neck and chest and you may perspire. It’s difficult to completely stop hot flushes and sweats, but their intensity can often be reduced.

Other symptoms include a low sex drive, emotional symptoms such as mood swings and anxiety, and osteoporosis (bone thinning).

You can discuss any symptoms you have with your doctor or nurse. They may prescribe you creams or tablets to help ease the symptoms.


If you’ve not been through the menopause, treatments for cervical cancer may bring the menopause on. They may also affect your sex life and fertility.

Menopausal symptoms

A hysterectomy that includes removing your ovaries will bring on your menopause straight away. If you have radiotherapy without surgery you will also have your menopause. This is because radiotherapy stops your ovaries from working.

Some women may be offered an operation before radiotherapy to reposition their ovaries higher in the abdomen, out of the radiotherapy site. The aim of this surgery is to prevent an early menopause, as the ovaries won’t be affected by the radiotherapy treatment. It’s known as ovarian transposition and is usually carried out at the same time as initial surgery if it’s thought that radiotherapy will be needed afterwards. It may also be possible to have an ovarian transposition using laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery.

For some women, ovarian transposition isn’t successful and an early menopause still happens.

Chemotherapy may also stop your ovaries from working.

If your treatment causes an early menopause your doctor may suggest you take hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This means taking medication to replace the hormones that your body no longer produces. You can discuss this in more detail with your doctor.

Some common symptoms of the menopause include:

Hot flushes and sweats

This is the most common menopausal symptom. Although the exact cause is unknown, body temperature control seems to be affected by falling oestrogen levels. Hot flushes can vary from a mild feeling of warmth in the face to more severe symptoms such as drenching night sweats that affect the whole body.

Hot flushes generally last for about 4–5 minutes. During a hot flush you may feel sudden warmth in your face, neck and chest, and you may become flushed and perspire. Some women feel their heart beating faster (palpitations) during a flush.

If you have flushes at night, these may affect your sleep. Night sweats can disrupt your sleep pattern, especially if you need to change your night clothes and bedding.

It’s difficult to completely stop hot flushes and sweats, but their frequency or intensity can often be reduced. Using a combination of some of the approaches below is often most successful at controlling or reducing flushes.

Be aware of triggers

Certain situations may bring on or trigger a hot flush. For example, getting too warm, drinking tea, coffee or alcohol, or eating spicy foods. Keeping a record of when you have flushes can help you find out what triggers them, so you can try to avoid these triggers.

Even if you don’t have obvious triggers, keeping a record can help to measure how much a treatment for hot flushes is helping.

Practical tips

There’s lots of practical advice available to help you cope with hot flushes. Here are a few tips:

  • Wear natural fabrics, such as cotton, and dress in layers, so you can remove clothes as needed.
  • Use cotton sheets and have layers of bedding.
  • Keep the room temperature cool or use a fan.
  • Have cold drinks rather than hot ones.
  • Try some complementary therapies, such as controlled breathing or yoga.


There are different medicines that your doctor can prescribe to help reduce the severity and frequency of your hot flushes and sweats.

Complementary therapies

There are a variety of complementary therapies that may help you control hot flushes. Some of these have been researched, but for others the evidence is only anecdotal (based on personal accounts rather than facts).

Some of these therapies may be available on the NHS – your GP can give you further details. If you would like to find a complementary therapist, make sure that they are properly qualified and registered. The British Complementary Medical Association has lists of registered therapists throughout the UK.

It’s a good idea to discuss the use of any complementary therapy with your doctor, as some therapies may interfere with your treatment.

Low sex drive

You may notice you have a lower sex drive after your menopause. This may be caused by a lower level of hormones after the menopause, although not all women will notice a change.

Psychological effects

You may notice you have mood swings, feel anxious, or have problems with concentration and memory while going through the menopause. Talking about your feelings with your family, friends, doctor or nurse can help. Some women find it helps to talk things through with a counsellor.

Bone thinning

An early menopause can increase your risk of bone thinning (osteoporosis). We can send you information on bone health that includes more detail about what you can do to help your bones.

Many of the menopausal symptoms described here can be eased by hormone creams, skin patches or tablets, which can all be prescribed by your doctor. These replace the hormones that are normally produced by the ovaries. However, these hormone replacement therapies may not be suitable for all women. Your doctor will let you know if they are suitable for you.

An organisation called the Daisy Network supports women who have an early menopause. You may find it helpful to contact them if you feel you need more support.

Back to Menopausal symptoms, sex and fertility

Vaginal changes

Treatment for cervical cancer can cause changes to the vagina. Your radiographer or specialist nurse can tell you more about these changes and their symptoms.


The treatment you have for cervical cancer may mean you are no longer able to have children.