Breast Cancer Treatment and Menopause

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If you are diagnosed with breast cancer and hope to become pregnant in the future it is important to talk with your doctor about your treatment options. They can help decide on a course of treatment that may preserve your ability to have children.

Breast cancer treatment and the disease itself can greatly alter a woman's menstrual cycles. Some women find their period stops altogether during treatment, sending them into menopause or a similar physical state. Learn about breast cancer and menopause here:

Treatment
According to Living Beyond Breast Cancer, treatments often interfere with a woman's estrogen production. Chemotherapy, ovary removal and hormone therapy may cause menstrual periods to stop permanently or for the duration of treatment. Women who are premenopausal and having regular periods before cancer treatment may experience a return of their menstrual cycle once the treatment is over. Those who are perimenopausal, or who have periods less frequently, are more likely to see their menstrual cycle stop completely both during and after treatment. 

Types of treatment
Here are some types of treatment that are known to cause menopausal symptoms:

  • Ovary removal or oophorectomy: Women who are premenopausal​,  have a BRCA2 or BRCA1 mutation, and estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer may have their ovaries removed to prevent the spread of the disease. This often puts the patient into menopause, which causes them to experience hot flashes, vaginal dryness and bone density loss. 
  • Hormonal therapy: Individuals who are prescribed hormone or endocrine therapy like triptorelin (also known as Trelstar), goserelin (also known as Zoladex), and leuprolide (commonly known as Lupron) may experience a temporary menopausal state. 
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy causes the destruction of egg folicles, which can cause a woman's period to stop and make her experience menopause-like symptoms. Some chemotherapy treatments are more likely to have this effect than others, including cytoxen, methotrexate​, fluorouracil​, adriamycin, cytoxan and taxol. 

If you are concerned about your fertility and potential to have children after treatment, be sure to mention your worries to your doctor. This will help him or her to decide the best course of treatment for the cancer that can preserve your body's ability to become pregnant.

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