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Menopause Symptoms

After chemotherapy, some women stop getting their periods every month — or stop getting them altogether.

Some cancer treatments (and the medicines tamoxifen and raloxifene) can cause changes in women's bodies and reduce the amount of hormones they make. These changes can cause your periods to stop, as well as cause other symptoms of menopause (also called "the change" or "change of life").

Over time, some women will start getting their periods again (this is more likely for younger women), but others will not. Even though your doctor may have discussed early menopause with you, give yourself permission to mourn the loss of your fertility.

Some common signs of menopause are:

Irregular periods. One of the first signs is a change in your periods. They may become less regular. They could be lighter. Some women have short times of heavy bleeding. Sometimes, they stop all of a sudden.

Hot flashes. Hot flashes are often worse at night and can disrupt sleep or cause mood changes.

Problems with your vagina or bladder. Tissues in these areas become drier and thinner. You may be more likely to get infections in your vagina. As you get older, you may also have urinary tract problems or problems holding your urine.

Lack of interest in having sex. These changes may make it hard for you to become sexually aroused.

Fatigue and sleep problems. You may feel tired or have trouble getting to sleep, getting up early, or getting back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night.

Memory problems, and other problems such as depression, mood swings, and irritability. Some of these, especially memory problems, may be related to growing older. There may be a connection between changes in your hormone levels and your emotions.

Other changes in your body. You may notice your waist getting bigger, less muscle and more fat around your body, or thinning and loss of elasticity in your skin.

Ask your doctor if you still need to use birth control, even if you are not getting your period.

Getting Help With Menopause Symptoms From Your Doctor or Nurse

See a gynecologist every year. Ask about:

  • Medicines or supplements or other approaches that can help you manage menopause symptoms
  • Tests you should have (such as a bone density test to see if you are at risk for osteoporosis)
  • Ways you can reduce your chance of getting:
    • Osteoporosis. Menopause can put you at risk for losing bone tissue, which can weaken your bones and make them easier to break.
    • Heart Disease. Menopause can also lead to higher cholesterol in your blood, which can increase your risk of diseases that affect your heart and blood vessels.
Tips: Relieving Menopause Symptoms

Here are some tips that have helped others deal with menopause symptoms:
  • Quit smoking.
  • Eat wisely. A balanced diet will provide most of the nutrients and calories your body needs to stay healthy.
  • Through exercise and diet, try to maintain a healthy weight. Exercise most days of the week, doing both weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening activities.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • If you are having hot flashes, write down when they happen and what may trigger them. This may help you find out what to avoid. You may also want to:
    • Sleep in a cool room; this may keep hot flashes from waking you up during the night.
    • Dress in layers that you can take off if you get warm.
    • Use cotton sheets, and wear clothing that lets your skin "breathe."
    • Try having a cold drink (water or juice) or turning on a fan at the beginning of a flash.
    • Try not to eat a lot of spicy foods.
    • Limit the alcohol and caffeine you drink.

Aetna Members: If you would like more information about breast cancer and breast cancer prevention, please call (888) 322-8742.

Miembros de Aetna: Si desean mayor información sobre el cáncer de seno y sobre su prevención por favor llame al (888) 322-8742.

Last updated July 9, 2010