Life after cancer: Dealing with early menopause

As many of us know, cancer can cause all sorts of changes — to your life, to your family, to your work, and, of course, to your body. One of these changes for women might have been unexpected: early menopause. In today’s post we explore some tips for tackling menopause symptoms.

By Kayleigh Alexandra, for Happy Magazine.

Early menopause can be a byproduct of some cancer treatments like chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery, and can affect women in their 30s and 40s (the average age of natural menopause is 51 years old).

Menopause is a completely natural part of a woman’s life, but when it hits you suddenly during or straight after cancer treatment, it can feel like an unfair blow. It might feel like your time is up, and that you’re entering a new phase in your life before you are ready. It can be overwhelming and upsetting.

However, there are ways that you can deal with early menopause symptoms and make dealing with it easier until it passes.

In the post below, we’ll be talking about life after cancer: how to deal with early menopause.

Living with hot flushes

Hot flushes (also known as hot flashes) are the most common symptom of menopause.

If you’re dealing with early menopause as a result of breast cancer, it’s not advised to treat hot flushes with HRT (because of the increased risks associated with these treatments), but there are many other ways that you can tackle annoying flushes.

Some women use anti-inflammatory evening primrose oil and have seen the severity of their hot flushes reduce. Plant-based remedies like this are thought to be safe for women who have had breast cancer, but it’s worth double-checking this with your doctor before you start taking it.

Recent studies have also suggested that natural therapies like acupuncture or homeopathy may help with alleviating hot flashes and other menopause symptoms. Again, it’s worth discussing this with your doctor first.

Knowing some of the triggers of your hot flushes too — such as coffee, alcohol, or eating spicy food — can help you to make small lifestyle changes that will reduce your symptoms.

Solving sweating problems

Like hot flushes, excessive sweating and night sweats can be an issue for some women during menopause.

There are plenty of things you can do to help with night sweats — check out this recent post by Happy Magazine Contributor Natasha Whelehan for some practical tips to cope with night sweats, such as getting a fan or switching to natural fibre fabrics for your bedding (and avoiding memory foam!).

If you’re finding that you’re dealing with sweating issues during the day, there are steps you can take to tackle this too. Investing in a sweat proof undershirt will help to handle excessive sweating and the self-consciousness you feel as a result.

There are a few options out there for women’s undershirts such as Knix’s Don’t Sweat It T-shirt — which has been scientifically developed to be sweat-stopping and breathable. Undershirts like this can be great confidence-boosters if you’re feeling paranoid about your sweating because they stop sweat stains and prevent odour.

Changes to your sex life

Early menopause can also cause changes to your sex life, such as a loss of interest in sex, vaginal dryness, and discomfort during sex.

There are a few different non-hormone treatments that can help you deal with these symptoms, such as creams or lubricants that can make sex more comfortable and relieve other symptoms. You can speak to a doctor or nurse about trying some of these options out or Holland & Barrett have this water-based lubricant by Yes WB available over the counter.

Don’t feel embarrassed about getting help or advice if you need it — sex drive issues are common for lots of people.

It’s important to remember that everybody’s sex drive is different. Your body is starting to change, but it’s still strong and sexy (just think of all the things you’ve conquered already!). Menopause doesn’t mean the end of your sex life — it’s more about finding a way to adapt and change with your body. You may find that different things work for you than before, but it’s definitely still possible to have a happy and fulfilling sex life.

Looking after your mental and emotional needs

It’s not just physical changes that early menopause can cause — it’s mental and emotional ones too.

Prematurely going through menopause can feel like a lot to deal with, especially after you’ve battled your way through cancer. You may feel like you can’t control your body, which can lead to a loss of confidence and self-esteem. Combined with intense hormone-related mood swings, irritability and fatigue, and this doesn’t always make menopause a fun ride.

Some of these feelings can be managed by making some lifestyle changes — such as focusing on your mental health and things that make you feel positive. Spending more time with loved ones, taking up creative hobbies, eating healthily and exercising can all help with confidence and happiness levels. Relaxation methods such as meditation or yoga can also reduce stress and help you to self-calm while tackling emotional changes.

If you feel like you need some outside help, counselling can work well for emotional problems (and you can also do it as a couple if you’re worried about changes to your sex life).

Life after cancer can be hard, especially if you’re tackling early menopause too. There are, however, ways you can deal with it. By following the tips above, you can make positive changes that will make your life easier and happier.

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