I have recently been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and am going to need a hysterectomy. What will happen when I have an early menopause?
Menopause is defined as the last menstrual period. It occurs because as you get older your ovaries start to make less oestrogen (the main female hormone) and you stop producing eggs and having periods. The average age of the menopause in the UK is 51 but this varies widely.
The menopause occurs naturally and some women experience no problems. If you do develop symptoms, these are due to the low levels of oestrogen. Symptoms include:
- hot flushes – a sudden feeling of heat all over the body, which can last several minutes
- mood swings, from depression and anxiety to irritability
- hair can thin on the head and body and sometimes appear on the face
- skin changes include dryness, especially of the vulva and vagina, and can cause sex to be painful
- osteoporosis, or bone thinning, can make you more prone to fractures
If you go through a natural menopause these symptoms usually develop slowly. However, they often develop suddenly in women who have ovarian cancer because of their treatment. This is an artificial menopause and is known as premature ovarian failure or premature ovarian insufficiency. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy can all cause an early menopause.