What is induced menopause?
The term induced menopause refers to menopause caused by a medical treatment such as surgery, radiation, or medication. Induced menopause often occurs as a result of certain cancer treatments or other chronic pelvic conditions. To treat these conditions, the goal is usually to stop ovarian function altogether to prevent a disease from getting worse. Women can have induced menopause due to these reasons:
Surgical removal of the ovaries (also known as oophorectomy) – You may have your ovaries surgically removed if you have the following conditions:
- Ovarian cancer
- Benign (non-cancerous) ovarian cysts
- Abscesses in the fallopian tubes or on the ovaries
- Ovarian torsion (this is where the ovary and fallopian tube twist)
- To decrease your risk for estrogen-dominant cancers including breast and ovarian cancer if you are at high risk for these cancers
The ovaries may also be removed during a hysterectomy, which is when the uterus is removed. Some women undergo hysterectomy if they have fibroids, uterine cancer, or endometriosis. In pre-menopausal women who have a hysterectomy, it is usually preferred to leave the ovaries to avoid early menopause, as menopause does carry an increased risk for certain health conditions.
Women who have a hysterectomy but keep their ovaries will not enter menopause right away as their ovaries will continue to produce estrogen and progesterone. However, they will cease to have periods as they will no longer have a uterus.
Hormone Cancer Therapy – Some medications are designed to completely block sex hormone production, specifically estrogen. In certain cancers, estrogen increases the rate of cancer cell growth.
Radiation – Frequently used for cancer treatment, radiation therapy is when high doses of energy, or radiation therapy, are aimed at cancerous cells. The goal is to kill existing cancer cells and stop the spread of new cancerous growth.
Chemotherapy – Even when chemotherapy is not intended to treat the ovaries, some treatments affect your ovarian function and consequently your ability to produce estrogen. If you have not gone through natural menopause, your periods may stop while you are undergoing chemotherapy but may return once you complete your treatment.
Managing Induced Menopause
If you have medically induced menopause, you will likely experience the same symptoms as other women in menopause, although they can be more severe. This is because women who have a natural menopause experience a slower (with many ups and downs) decrease in estrogen whereas induced menopause causes complete cessation of estrogen production within days or even hours (if you have surgery).
You may also experience different emotional challenges with induced menopause. Where some women may be ready for this change, others may be saddened or angered at the loss of their fertility and rapid entrance into menopause, especially in the presence of a chronic illness.
Working closely together with your doctor is key to managing your chronic health condition and early menopause. Your doctor may recommend hormone replacement therapy based on your age, medical history, and the severity of your symptoms. To help you navigate the emotional ups and downs that may accompany induced menopause, seek out a mental health professional and support group that can help you cope and overcome your struggles. The Caria app has an active community of women who have experienced induced menopause. It also offers ways to track and manage your symptoms, and expert support if you need it.