Health effects of early menopause
For women in their 50’s, menopause is a normal event. Most women adjust to the physical changes with little if any impact on their quality of life, or activities.
Most symptoms associated with menopause are resolved with time.
Most information about the effects of early menopause on health comes from studies of women who have had a natural early menopause. Only a few studies have looked at the effects of premature or early menopause on long-term health. It is not known whether the effects are the same in women who go through early menopause because of breast cancer treatment. This section provides a brief guide to the findings to date.
Premature or early menopause may increase the risk of heart disease. This means that exercise, weight control, treatment for high blood pressure, a balanced diet, not smoking and minimising alcohol intake are likely to be very important in women experiencing early menopause.
Loss of oestrogen at menopause may increase the risk of osteoporosis (thinning or weakening of the bones). The risk of osteoporosis can be increased further by some breast cancer drugs such as aromatase inhibitors.
Women with a family history of osteoporosis, who smoke, are underweight, have hyperthyroidism or have taken steroids are at particular risk of osteoporosis.
Hormonal therapy for breast cancer may also affect bone health. In general, tamoxifen maintains bone and reduces fracture risk and aromatase inhibitors decrease bone strength and increase fracture risk. Your doctor may measure your bone density if you’re at increased risk of osteoporosis before prescribing a hormonal therapy for you. If you’re already at increased risk of osteoporosis, your doctor will consider this when recommending which hormonal therapy is suitable for you. If you are concerned about your bone health you can discuss this with your oncologist when you start hormonal therapy.
How can I reduce my risk of osteoporosis?
There are a number of effective strategies for avoiding osteoporosis including:
*Talk to a health professional before starting any new activity after treatment for breast cancer, and build activities slowly.