Breast cancer is fed by female hormones. While older women, nearing the age of menopause and beyond, are typically at highest risk for breast cancer, younger women are being treated for breast cancer all the time. After fighting off breast cancer, some women may feel they are out of the water, but breast cancer is fed by estrogen. The only complete solution to ending the estrogen / breast cancer link is surgical menopause.
Surgical menopause causes instant menopause symptoms. In most cases, women are given hormone replacement therapy immediately after surgery while in the recovery room. For women with a history of breast cancer, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is not an option. According to WebMD, HRT can feed breast cancer in just the same way as naturally occurring hormones before the hysterectomy. Without HRT to fight off menopause symptoms, what are women with a history of breast cancer supposed to do when tackled by hot flashes, depression and other menopause symptoms?
Fighting Menopause Symptoms Without HRT
Before choosing the best method of treating menopause symptoms in breast cancer survivors, it is best for women to talk with other women who have undergone a hysterectomy. There are many misconceptions about menopause though many women live 20, 30, 40 or more years without ever taking an ounce of HRT. Dispelling the myths can help breast cancer survivors tackle menopause symptoms a bit easier.
Even with education, women in menopause will suffer from symptoms at one point or another. The most common symptoms are hot flashes, mood swings and reduced libido / vaginal dryness. Let’s look at each of these symptoms individually.
Hot flashes, the Hollywood symptom of menopause, will vary in severity. Some women feel a slight flash of heat while others can sit sweating as if sitting in a sauna turned on high. Ice packs, cool cloths and moisture wicking clothing can help fight the heat. Some women carry battery powered fans to help.
Mood swings are often misunderstood, as well. Women who have suffered from PMS symptoms for years already have a good idea how mood swings feel in menopause. Natural remedies include relaxation techniques, exercise, yoga and meditation. If the feelings are overpowering, medication can be prescribed that is not hormone boosting.
Problems with libido and vaginal dryness are the easiest to solve after surgical menopause. The adrenal gland picks up testosterone production after surgical menopause and natural menopause. For older women, the change in libido may be less noticeable, but when a breast cancer survivor is shoved into menopause at the age of 35, the reduction in libido may be a bit more pronounced. Women who have undergone surgical menopause describe the change as more of a bump. It may not be so much that libido is lower, but that it takes a bit more time to become aroused.
Breast cancer victims are younger today than ever before and are often faced with deciding whether or not to have a hysterectomy to cut off estrogen supply or live life as a “woman” with increased risk. Menopause may not be as scary as many breast cancer survivors think and when the alternative is increased risk of cancer, the choice may be a bit easier to make.
Summer Banks underwent surgical menopause before the age of 35. She has lived more than three years without hormone replacement therapy.