If you were still having periods (menstruating) before surgery, having your ovaries removed will mean you no longer produce the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, and you will stop menstruating. This is called menopause.
When menopause occurs naturally, it is a gradual process that starts between the ages of 45 and 55, but menopause after surgery is sudden.
Symptoms of menopause can include hot flushes, dry or itchy skin, mood swings, trouble sleeping (insomnia), tiredness and vaginal dryness. These symptoms are usually more intense after surgery than during a natural menopause, because the body hasn’t had time to get used to the gradual decrease in hormone levels.
Tips for managing the symptoms of menopause
- Vaginal moisturisers available over the counter from chemists can help with vaginal discomfort and dryness.
- Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of menopause hormone therapy (MHT), previously called hormone replacement therapy (HRT). If taken after natural menopause, MHT containing oestrogen may increase the risk of some diseases. If you were on MHT when cancer was diagnosed, you’ll need to consider whether to continue.
- Menopause can increase your risk of developing thinning of the bones (osteoporosis). Talk to your doctor about having a bone density test or taking medicines to prevent your bones becoming weak. Regular exercise will help keep your bones strong. For more information, visit Osteoporosis Australia.
- Cholesterol levels can change after menopause, and this can increase your risk of heart disease. Regular exercise and a balanced diet may help improve cholesterol levels. If not, talk to your doctor about cholesterol-lowering drugs.
- Meditation and relaxation techniques may help reduce stress and lessen symptoms.
- Talk to your doctor or call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for more ways to relieve the symptoms of menopause.
A/Prof Sam Saidi, Senior Staff Specialist, Gynaecological Oncology, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; A/Prof Penny Blomfield, Gynaecological Oncologist, Hobart Women’s Specialists, and Chair, Australian Society of Gynaecologic Oncologists, TAS; Dr Robyn Cheuk, Senior Radiation Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Kim Hobbs, Clinical Specialist Social Worker, Gynaecological Cancer, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Sonja Kingston, Consumer; Clinical A/Prof Judy Kirk, Head, Familial Cancer Service, Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre, Westmead Hospital, and Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Prof Linda Mileshkin, Medical Oncologist and Clinical Researcher, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Deb Roffe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Support Team, Ovarian Cancer Australia; Emily Stevens, Gynaecology Oncology Nurse Coordinator, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; Dr Amy Vassallo, Fussell Family Foundation Research Fellow, Cancer Research Division, Cancer Council NSW; Merran Williams, Consumer.
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