Early menopause can be a common side effect of chemotherapy, and it tends to strike those undergoing cancer treatments, adding an extra burden to an already overwhelming load. It occurs because cancer treatments such as chemotherapy can damage the ovaries, causing hormone production to drop and triggering menopause. If early menopause is affecting you, some of the symptoms you’ll experience include hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and mood swings.
Thankfully, there are ways to treat these symptoms and find some relief.
10. Hormone Therapy
Because the main culprit of early menopause is a drop in hormone production, oral or vaginal menopausal hormone therapy are possible treatment options. Once estrogen production drops, your bones become weaker and more prone to fractures. By taking estrogen and progesterone, you can reduce bone loss. You may also experience fewer hot flashes and less vaginal dryness. However, for breast cancer survivors, there is a chance that oral menopausal hormone therapy can increase the risk of cancer returning while vaginal menopausal hormone therapy may not. Talk with your doctor to see if either of these options might be right for you.
9. Estrogen Soft Ring
With this treatment, which aims to reduce vaginal symptoms, a soft ring that contains estrogen is inserted into the vagina, much like putting in a diaphragm. The soft ring is supposed to mimic normal hormonal activity and reduce vaginal dryness by artificially providing estrogen and lubrication.
8. Estrogen Suppositories or Creams
Similarly, estrogen suppositories or creams are also meant to address vaginal dryness. Suppositories are inserted into the vagina for slow release, while cream is applied to the treated area. These substances, in turn, help reduce pain, soreness, and itching or discomfort that may be experienced during sex.
7. Non-Hormonal Moisturizers
Sometimes adding manufactured hormones to the body can be problematic for medical reasons, so non-hormonal moisturizers can be used as an alternative. These can be purchased over the counter and because they don’t have estrogen, should be safe for breast cancer survivors to use. These creams can address vaginal dryness when used regularly, and unlike lubricants, moisturize the area instead of simply lubricating it.
Another way to address vaginal symptoms and ease discomfort experienced during sex is lidocaine, a pain-relieving drug that’s commonly used by dentists. Patients can place a compress of liquid lidocaine to the vaginal area to serve as a numbing agent. As a prescription drug, lidocaine requires a doctor’s approval before use. Consult with your doctor to see if this might be an option for you.
5. Vitamin E
One common symptom of menopause is experiencing hot flashes. Vitamin E, with its antioxidant properties, is a natural way to reduce these hot flashes. You can take over-the-counter vitamin E supplements or opt to eat foods with high levels of this vitamin such as sunflower seeds, almonds, trout, and avocado.
Gabapentin is a Neurontin, a drug used to manage epilepsy and relieve nerve pain. This drug serves as a non-hormonal and a non-antidepressant treatment option for breast cancer survivors. Patients who have used gabapentin experienced less severe hot flashes, as well as less issues with sleeplessness or insomnia.
3. Megestrol Acetate
Megestrol acetate is a drug used to treat metastatic breast cancer and anorexia. It also contains a synthetic form of progesterone, which can help reduce hot flashes. Taking this drug in low doses can help alleviate hot flashes, though consult with your physician before use.
Acupuncture is an alternative therapy that may help reduce hot flashes and night sweats, as well as anxiety and insomnia. While medical professionals are still studying the effectiveness of this type of treatment, it may serve as a non-hormonal option for breast cancer survivors. Ask your doctor if acupuncture may work for you.
Certain antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) and serotonin-norepinepthrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) have helped reduce the strength and frequency of hot flashes and night sweats. These prescription medications can serve as an alternative to hormone therapy treatment. Antidepressants that have been known to relieve menopausal symptoms include Zoloft, Prozac, Celexa, Effexor, and Pristiq.
Many of the remedies to reduce early menopause symptoms require prescriptions. While other options may not require a prescription, such as vitamin E and over-the-counter suppositories and moisturizers, it’s always best to talk to your doctor about possible treatments first. With hormone treatments, antidepressants, supplements, and moisturizers available, there are plenty of options to help you find relief.
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