Side Effects of Menopause

Your doctor may suggest a complete hysterectomy as the best course of action for the type and stage of your cancer. When a complete hysterectomy is done, the entire uterus is removed as well as the ovaries and fallopian tubes. In addition to infertility, a major side effect of a complete hysterectomy is menopause, defined as twelve months without a period. You may have heard about this as something older women go through. The symptoms of menopause are related to the loss of sex hormones in the body when the reproductive system is removed. Because of the reduction of hormones in your body, you are likely to experience side effects – some long term and some temporary.

Going through menopause and subsequent infertility at a young age can be very disorienting and lead to a lot of questions like “What are these changes happening to my body?” “How will I date in the future?” and “How does this affect my womanhood?” It is important to remember you are not defined by your fertility. Take some time to think about what your body is going through and the impacts this may have and find support in other survivors or medical professionals to help better understand the changes of menopause.

Side Effects of MenopauseTips for Coping
Hot flashes – You may go through brief periods throughout the day where you feel uncomfortably warm. Night sweats are also common among women going through menopause.Exercise and acupuncture are two strategies for dealing with hot flashes. Hot flashes won't last forever. Also try to layer clothing to easily adjust during a hot flash.
Sleeplessness – Inability to fall asleep or stay asleep.Speak with your doctor about medications that may help you feel more rested at night. Melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone,
can be used to combat insomnia.
Mood swings – Because of the changes in hormone levels in your body you may experience periods of sadness followed by periods of happiness.Remember that your body is going through significant changes. Allow yourself permission to feel and understand your feelings. Yoga and exercise as well as personal support can be helpful in navigating mood swings.
Trouble concentratingDifferent tactics can help you keep focus. Whether it's removing external distractions or keeping notes on a task, find the strategy that works best for you. Try not to get frustrated and allow yourself some leeway.
Vaginal side effects – Vaginal atrophy and dryness can occur while going through menopause.Lubricants can help to ease the discomfort of vaginal dryness. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and estrogen replacement has been used in the past to combat side effects of menopause. There are some risks associated with HRT such as increased risk for breast cancer and heart disease. Discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor to see if HRT is the right option for you. Other alternative therapies include exercise and diet, sexual activity to improve blood supply to the area and alternative therapies like acupuncture.

Vaginal side effects are often glazed over or completely ignored when discussing side effects with your health care team. It is a sensitive topic and can be embarrassing. But it is an important quality-of-life issue you will want to address. If your doctor does not bring it up, do not be shy about introducing the topic. S/he can explain the cause of the side effect and recommend a possible treatment plan.
InfertilityThere are options to deal with infertility including adoption or cryopreservation. See the section on infertility.
Sexual Side Effects – Loss of interest in sex or painful sex can arise during menopause.The changes in your hormone levels along with the emotional stress of cancer and treatment can lessen your interest in sexual activity. This can be incredibly difficult at a time when you are establishing your sexual identity. Communication with a current partner or a professional can help you navigate this sensitive issue. Planning sexual activity with a partner may seem awkward because it will take the spontaneity out of the moment, but it will help you cope with fatigue related to your treatment.