Study Suggests Relief for Menopause Symptoms Caused by Chemotherapy

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • For some women, menopause doesn’t happen at the usual time in life. Instead, they are thrown into menopause due to needing to take chemotherapy for a diagnosis of cancer.

    According to the Cleveland Clinic, women who go through chemotherapy often have experience irregular menstrual cycles or the disappearance of menstrual periods altogether. Furthermore, some medications that are used in chemotherapy can damage the ovaries and cause menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, emotional changes, changes in the vagina, sexuality changes and weight gain. In addition, these medications can also cause a woman to go into actual menopause itself. “Menopause may be immediate or delayed, permanent or temporary when triggered by chemotherapy,” the clinic’s website states. “Unfortunately there is no way to accurately to accurately determine how or when chemotherapy or other cancer treatments will affect your menstrual cycle.”

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    Menopausal symptoms may appear several months after the treatment starts and they may last for years after the treatment ends.  Additionally, the return of ovarian function is dependent on the age of the woman prior to treatment as well as the type of medication that she receives during chemotherapy.  “Generally, as a woman ages and becomes closer to menopause (chronologically), the more likely it is that she will experience menopause symptoms during chemotherapy, and the more likely that menopause will be permanent,” the Cleveland Clinic stated. And even worse, the symptoms of menopause that seem to creep up on women who go through a natural transition often can be more severe for women who are going through chemotherapy.

    So what happens if you are one of these women? Is there a way to get relief?

    A new study out of the Netherlands suggests that women who undergo menopause due to chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer may find some relief through talk therapy and regular exercise.


    In the study, the researchers randomly placed 422 women who had breast cancer as well as treatment-induced menopause in one of four groups. One of these groups was assigned to attend six weekly therapy sessions that involved cognitive behavior therapy, including relaxation exercises. These sessions also discussed body image and sexuality issues.  A second group met with physiotherapists and was assigned a specific exercise regimen. The third group participated in both therapy and exercise. The fourth group was assigned to a waitlist.

    The researchers followed back up with the study participants six months later. They found that women who were involved in the talk therapy group, the exercise group and the therapy/exercise group believed they had improved in symptoms related to the treatment. Each of these groups saw an increase of approximately five points on a 73-point scale. The women who were in the group that was waitlisted had an increase of less than two points.

    The researchers also noted that participants who had participated in therapy described themselves as being less bothered by hot flashes and night sweats, even though they had these symptoms of menopause just as often.

  • Dr. Neil Aaronson from The Netherlands Cancer Institute, who served as the lead researcher on this study, said that women who experience menopause-related symptoms while being treated for breast cancer often are offered a prescription for antidepressants and other medications to help them deal with these symptoms. However, he believes many of these women prefer not to take any additional drugs or face other side effects associated with this medication. To help women who are interested in finding alternate ways to cope, Aaronson and his team plan to create an online program based on the therapy sessions so that women who experience this type of menopause can do the sessions at their leisure.

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    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

    Cleveland Clinic. (2012). Menopause and chemotherapy.

    Pittman, G. (2012). Therapy, exercise aid in chemo-related menopause. MedlinePlus.

Published On: October 12, 2012