If you have not yet been through menopause, radiation therapy to the pelvis can cause early 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 the hormone 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 menopause hormone therapy (MHT, previously called hormone replacement therapy or HRT). MHT may increase the risk of some diseases. If you were already on MHT when cancer was diagnosed, there should be no need to stop taking it as vulvar cancer is not caused or affected by hormones.
- Ask your doctor about having a bone density test or taking medicine to prevent your bones from becoming weak.
- Regular weight-bearing exercise will help keep your bones strong. For more on this, see Osteoporosis Australia.
- Meditation and relaxation techniques can help reduce stress and lessen symptoms. Listen to our relaxation and meditation audio tracks.
- Cognitive behaviour therapy has been shown to help people manage menopause symptoms such as anxiety, stress and insomnia. Ask your GP for more information.
Podcast: Sex and Cancer
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
A/Prof Alison Brand, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Ellen Barlow, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Royal Hospital for Women, NSW; Jane Conroy-Wright, Consumer; Rebecca James, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Suparna Karpe, Clinical Psychologist, Gynaecological Oncology, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Dr Pearly Khaw, Consultant Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Sally McCoull, Consumer; A/Prof Orla McNally, Gynaecological Oncologist and Director, Oncology/Dysplasia, The Royal Women’s Hospital, and Director, Gynaecology Tumour Stream,Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre, VIC; Haley McNamara, Social Worker and Project Manager, Care at End of Life Project, Queensland Health, QLD; Tamara Wraith, Senior Clinician – Physiotherapy, The Royal Women’s Hospital, VIC.
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