Cancer Risk in Women After Menopause - Is There Any Truth?

Cancer Risk in Women After Menopause - Is There Any Truth?


Menopause is the end of the reproductive cycle in women and every woman enters it at some point of the time. It occurs when there are no more eggs in the woman's ovaries. When the menstrual cycle stops completely, there is less production of estrogen and progesterone. Women during mid-40s or early 50s enter the menopausal phase. However, it could set in early as well if the woman has undergone cancer treatment like chemotherapy, surgery. This is called premature menopause. 
Cancer Risk in Women After Menopause

Symptoms of menopause 

Decrease in sex drive, night sweats, hot flashes, irregular sleep pattern, dryness in vagina, mood swings are some of the common symptoms experienced by women entering menopause. 

Menopause and Cancer 

Menopause does not cause cancer however; a woman who reaches menopause after 55 years of age has an increased risk of uterine, ovarian and breast cancer. Moreover, if a girl starts menstruating before the age of 12 years, she is at increased risk for cancer. The reason being, she is exposed to more ovulations than in normal course thus increasing her risk for uterine, ovarian and breast cancers. 

Can cancer treatment cause menopause 

As we have already discussed, cancer treatment can cause premature menopause. Let us see now which cancer treatments can cause premature menopause: 

Radiation therapy: women undergoing chemotherapy for treatment of cancer can experience early menopause. This is because the ovaries are damaged during the process and so there is reduced or no egg production. However, if a woman is young, she could get her periods after completion of the treatment, but in women over 40 chances are very bleak. 

Surgical removal of the ovaries: this treatment is done when there is an infection in the ovaries and it is feared that it could result in uterine or vaginal cancer. Since, the ovaries are removed, the place where estrogen and progesterone are produced is removed. 

Menopausal hormone therapy and risk of cancer: Those women, who are undergoing hormone therapy for managing the menopausal symptoms, run a higher risk for breast cancer. The hormonal therapy makes up for the reduced production of estrogen and progesterone in the body. Not only post-menopausal symptoms, it even helps woman to prevent osteoporosis. There is another hormone therapy with estrogen given to women who had undergone hysterectomy. 

Researchers have found that combined hormonal therapy puts women at increased risk for stroke, and heart attack but a reduced risk of colorectal cancer and bone fractures. As risks are associated with this therapy, combined hormone therapy is generally not advised for women who have a history of cancer. 

However, the controversies on combined hormone therapy are ongoing so to say that they are unsafe and so not be undertaken are baseless. It is therefore, very important to talk to the doctor about the symptoms, your present and past health condition and family history.

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