Cancer treatment and early menopause

The menopause is when your ovaries stop producing eggs and your periods stop. For most women, it doesn’t happen until they are in their 40s or 50s. But unfortunately, some types of cancer treatment can cause an early menopause in your teens, 20s or 30s. This could happen if your cancer treatment affects your ovaries or your womb. Sometimes this is a permanent, but in other cases it is temporary. 

This doesn’t happen to everyone – it depends on what treatment you’re having. So talk to your nurse or doctor if you’re not sure whether you’ll be affected. 

During menopause, hormone changes can cause symptoms such as hot flushes, vaginal discomfort, weight gain, mood swings and poor concentration. Changing hormone levels also increase the risk of problems like heart disease or osteoporosis (weak bones). 

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may help with the menopause symptoms, although it is not suitable for everyone. Your cancer care team will be able to talk to you about your options.   

Taking good care of yourself, with a healthy diet and exercise, can also help with menopause symptoms. 

There are options

If early menopause affects your fertility, there are options you can explore if you want to have children. Check out our information on fertility preservation treatment for women, and having a baby after cancer treatment.

Understandably, having an early menopause can come as a shock. It’s only natural that it brings up all kinds of emotions and sometimes these might be difficult to deal with.  It’s important to recognise that you’re not alone in coming to terms with what’s happened. Don’t keep these feelings to yourself. Start by talking to someone you trust on your cancer team. Just opening up about what’s on your mind will help you to begin making sense of the situation.

Published: December 2016
Review due: December 2019