In women who have not yet been through menopause, some treatments for vulvar cancer can cause early (induced) menopause. Your periods will stop and you may have symptoms such as hot flushes, insomnia, dry or itchy skin, mood swings, or loss of interest in sex (low libido). Loss of oestrogen at menopause may also cause bones to weaken and break more easily (osteoporosis).
After menopause, you will not be able to become pregnant. If this is a concern for you, talk to your doctor before treatment begins.
For more on this, see Fertility and cancer.
Tips for managing menopause symptoms
- Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). If taken after natural menopause, HRT containing oestrogen may increase the risk of some diseases. If you were already on HRT when the cancer was diagnosed, you will need to weigh up whether to continue.
- For tips on managing vaginal dryness, see Vaginal changes.
- Ask your doctor about having a bone density test or taking medicine to prevent your bones from becoming weak. Regular exercise will help keep your bones strong. Osteoporosis Australia has more information – call 1800 242 141.
- Meditation and relaxation techniques may help reduce stress and lessen symptoms. Listen to our relaxation and meditation audio tracks now. You can also download various apps to your phone.
- Cognitive behaviour therapy has been shown to help women manage their symptoms. Ask your GP for more information.
Prof Jonathan Carter, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, and Professor of Gynaecological Oncology, The University of Sydney, NSW; Ellen Barlow, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Gynaecological Cancer Centre, The Royal Hospital for Women, NSW; Dr Dani Bullen, Clinical Psychologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Wendy Cram, Consumer; Dr Tiffany Daly, Senior Radiation Oncologist, Radiation Oncology Princess Alexandra Raymond Terrace (ROPART), South Brisbane, QLD; Kim Hobbs, Clinical Specialist Social Worker, Westmead Centre for Gynaecological Cancer, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Anya Traill, Head of Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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