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Gynecologic Cancer and Menopause

"An estimated 94,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with a gynecologic cancer each year. Defined as cancer of the female reproductive system, gynecologic cancer includes five main types: ovarian, cervical, uterine, vaginal and vulvar. The two most common types of gynecologic cancer—ovarian and uterine—occur most often in women who are going through or have completed menopause, but they may occur in women who are younger, too."

Research suggests that 30 to 40 percent of all women with a gynecologic cancer experience menopause earlier than they would have without the disease. “Many times, treatment for gynecologic cancer will make a woman go through menopause before she normally would,” says Dr. John Farley, Gynecologic Oncologist at our hospital near Phoenix and Chief of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA). “That means she isn’t able to have children and has to deal with the problems associated with menopause, too, such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, osteoporosis, mood swings, depression, sexual dysfunction and pain during sex.”

Medically induced menopause that results from cancer treatment may develop more quickly and its side effects may be more severe than naturally occurring menopause. Patients who undergo treatments for other types of cancer do not typically experience premature menopause as a result. But for many gynecologic cancer patients, chemotherapy and radiation therapy often damage the ovaries, or they may undergo surgery to remove one or both ovaries. Menopause occurs when the ovaries no longer produce the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which control menstruation and ovulation, so damaging or removing the ovaries often triggers menopause. 

Symptoms Associated with Menopause:

  • Hot flashes

  • Loss of bladder sontrol

  • Insomnia and/or night sweats

  • Vaginal health and sexuality 

  • Mood changes

  • Heart palpitations

Because menopausal symptoms may be caused by changing hormone levels, it is unpredictable how often women will experience symptoms and how severe they will be. It is important to discuss your symptoms with a doctor to talk about treatment plans that are right for each individual.​

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