Perspective

Chemotherapy and menopausal symptoms

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Quality of life (QOL) refers to the overall wellbeing of an individual. Breast cancer treatments can seriously impair a patients’ ability to enjoy the normal activities of life while tentatively providing appreciatable benefits. One of the many side effects of chemotherapy on cancer survivor/ thriver is inducing menopausal symptoms.

Coping with the emotional strain of breast cancer diagnosis, the very grueling cancer treatment and the ever-present stress of everyday life can be tough, whether you are newly diagnosed, in active treatment or cancer free.

Quality of life 

The impact of breast cancer is exclusively different from person to person, irrespective of similar diagnosis. There are various ways in which a cancer patient over-all wellbeing (QOL) could be affected. Some of these side effects experienced could be life long while some are reversible after or during breast cancer treatment.

QOL can be measured based on several aspects of life. Todays’ purpose will be my personal experience with the menopausal side effects of breast cancer treatments.

Because breast cancer treatment side effects differ from person to person, my focus is strictly on what I experienced.

 

Menopausal Symptoms

Some breast cancers need estrogen to grow. I was treated by reducing my overall estrogen levels thereby prematurely inducing menopause in me (although I am well below the age to experience menopause naturally). Many of the below symptoms go away after treatment.

  • Hot flashes: A hot flash is a sensation of intense heat, sweating and rapid heartbeat, oftentimes beginning from the face and chest before spreading through the entire body. It ranges from mild to severe depending on the individual. I absolutely didn’t know what hot flashes were until I personally experienced them. I felt chills right after the wave of heat. I was concerned because I just couldn’t decide if I was hot or cold. I used to wake up in the middle of the night, breaking a sweat in very cold temperatures.

 

  • Irregular periods or total loss: With chemotherapy or targeted hormonal therapy, you can experience a temporal seize in monthly periods or even a total loss. I was placed on tamoxifen ( a targeted hormonal therapy which slows or stop the growth of hormone receptor positive tumors, preventing the cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow) as one of my cancer treatment. I first noticed that my period became very irregular then completely seized after awhile. It was heart-wrenching initially. I felt I was stripped of my feminity. Despite how inconvenient or painful menstrual periods could be sometimes if stopped abruptly, you will definitely feel blue. After some time, I decided to choose the lesser of two evils and choose to enjoy giving up the use of tampons😉. True to what my oncologist said, menopausal symptoms are more likely reversible in women younger than 40 at the time of treatment. The lost period was found!
  • Fertility: Before starting breast cancer treatment, you have the option of storing an embryo collected over several menstrual cycles. Eggs can be collected over a period of menstrual cycles, fertilized and frozen. After cancer treatment, they could be thawed and implanted in the uterus. The downside to this is that it delays the start of your cancer treatment. It was a conundrum…to risk waiting and the continuous growth and spread of cancer cells or to begin treatment to curb the monster called cancer.

Tips for relieving hot flashes

  • Stop smoking
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Avoid spicy food
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Always have cold water handy
  • Maintain a cool temperature for your home and bedroom

Menopausal symptoms are quite unpredictable and differ in people. Be open with your doctor and discuss all symptoms and concerns.

 

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