Menopause is a stage in woman’s life when she stops having her menstrual period for 12 consecutive months. It’s a normal part of the aging process that marks the end of woman’s reproductive years. Menopause occurs when the ovaries stop releasing eggs and producing oestrogen and progesterone. It typically begins in a woman’s late 40s to early 50s. However, women who have hysterectomy or ovaries removed undergo premature menopause. Chemotherapy, surgery and hormone therapy stops the ovaries from working and causes premature menopause.
Menopause and cancer causes uncertainty when women approach the end of reproductive years. Menopause brings more than just physical changes and uncertainty about cancer risks and cancer prevention. Studies show that menopause does not cause cancer. But the risk of developing cancer increases as women get older. Age at menopause is an established risk factor for cancer. Women who experience menopause after age 55 have an increased risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer. For every year older a woman’s age at menopause, the risk increases by about 3 percent. The risk is greater for women who began menstruating before 12 years old. A woman who menstruates longer during a lifetime has more ovulation and is exposed to more oestrogen. Longer exposure to oestrogen increases a woman’s risk of developing cancer.
Some women go through menopause without unpleasant symptoms or complications. But others have debilitating menopausal symptoms. The symptoms of menopause include changes in menstrual cycle, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, night sweats, decreased sex drive, painful intercourse, urinary incontinence, osteoporosis, mood swings and insomnia. Most of the symptoms are linked to lower levels of oestrogen. Because many of these symptoms are linked to low levels of oestrogen, this hormone had been used in the past in menopause treatment.
Hormone therapy is a treatment recommended by doctors to relieve the menopause symptoms and biological changes. HT usually involves treatment with oestrogen alone, combine oestrogen and progesterone or oestrogen with progestin. HT with oestrogen alone is generally prescribed for women who had hysterectomy but oestrogen not balanced with progesterone can stimulate growth of the uterus lining and increase the risk of uterine cancer.
Combined hormone therapy may help relieve the symptoms of menopause such as osteoporosis and hot flashes. But studies found that women on combined hormone therapy have a higher risk of breast cancer and non-small cell lung cancer yet lower risk of colorectal cancer. The risk and benefits of hormone therapy are different for each woman. If you are considering hormone therapy to treat menopausal symptoms, talk with your doctor about options for relieving your symptoms, medical history and the risk and benefits of those options.
Healthy and safe ways to manage menopause symptoms:
• Exercise – 20 minutes exercise three times a week eases hot flashes because it lowers the amount of circulating follicle stimulating hormone.
• Dietary supplements – black cohosh, flaxseed, evening primrose oil, wild yam and ginseng help relieve hot flashes.
• Calcium and Vitamin C supplements – helps prevent bone loss.
• Acupuncture – and acupressure have shown to limit hot flashes.
• Reducing stress – meditating or yoga practice reduces stress and improve mood.
• Lifestyle changes – avoiding coffee, alcohol and tea these triggers hot flashes. Eating more fruits and vegetables helps.
• Getting enough sleep – practice good sleep hygiene.
• Kegel exercise – strengthen the pelvic floor muscle and improve urethral control.
• Lubricants – can be used to ease dryness.
• Maintain healthy body weight – gaining weight after menopause increases the risk of cancer but losing weight can actually reduce your risk.
These safe and healthy ways to manage menopause can also help reduce your cancer risk. Menopause is a normal process of ageing and it can be a positive time of life. Although menopause can cause some uncomfortable symptoms and changes, these can be effectively managed.