Menopause and Breast Cancer Therapy

Certain chemotherapies can force the ovaries into retirement within a few months of treatment: This is medical menopause. Fifty percent of women younger than 35 who have CMF (cytoxan, methotrexate, fluorouracil) chemotherapy go into menopause, as do about 80% of women 35-44, and nearly 100% of women over 45.

With adriamycin chemotherapy, the risk of permanent menopause is somewhat less for women under 40, but it is similar to that of CMF for women over 40. Occasionally, chemotherapy-induced menopause is only temporary.

Hot flashes can get worse when tamoxifen (or other anti-estrogen therapies) is added after chemotherapy. Although these drugs don’t cause menopause, they can mimic some of the symptoms, which may then continue for some time.

If you were on menopausal hormone therapy and you had to stop the moment you were diagnosed with breast cancer, you may experience a hybrid of natural and medical menopause. This kind of “cold turkey” is the result of a dramatic drop in estrogen.

In addition to breast cancer therapy, other medical treatments can push you into menopause. If your ovaries are surgically removed, you will go into menopause overnight-this is surgical menopause. This is a very difficult way to enter menopause; it comes as a shock to your whole system.

Provided by ArmMed Media
Revision date: June 11, 2011
Last revised: by David A. Scott, M.D.