Do you have cancer? Are you experiencing induced or premature menopause due to treatment?
I wanted to focus on both breast cancer and menopause as it is a month dedicated to the awareness of both. However, I think it is an area where women can feel neglected or they feel there isn’t much they can do for their symptoms. I want you to know there ARE things you can do that may ease symptoms.
- if you are in your early, mid or late 40’s then you are likely to be going through the menopause – perimenopausal.
- you may have breast cancer and are in your 30’s but the meds you are on means you are going through induced menopause – maybe you have had uterine or ovarian cancer and have had a hysterectomy?
- Maybe you are on meds to reduce your oestrogen, hence getting lots of symptoms?
There may be many reasons why you are getting menopausal symptoms and you have either decided not to take HRT or you just can not take it.
This blog is for all of you. I hope it can offer some advise or support and give you some hope that you are being listened to and there are people out there to support you and what you are experiencing.
Main Menopausal Symptoms – hot flashes
The most common symptom for those who are going through the menopause is hot flashes or hot sweats. This is because of the fluctuation of the hormones.
Most research suggests that hot flashes occur when decreased oestrogen levels cause your body’s thermostat (hypothalamus) to become more sensitive to slight changes in body temperature. When the hypothalamus thinks your body is too warm, it starts a chain of events — a hot flash — to cool you down.
What can you do about it?
- There are a few foods you may want to try avoiding – spicy foods, red wine/alcohol & caffeinated drinks.
- There are also some medications which can cause hot flashes: some antidepressants, steroids, some opioids / pain killers & some meds for high blood pressure. You may want to speak to your doctors to see if there is anything else that they can put you on.
- Try lifestyle changes – try drinking cool water when you feel the heat rising, or wear lighter clothing , wearing easily removed layers or cotton clothes, apply an ice pack/something cold to your chest – maybe keep something cool by your bed if you get night.
- If you want to take medications – speak to your GP as there are non HRT medications that can help your symptoms.
Other Menopausal Symptoms
For many of you who are on cancer drugs you do always need to check whether a natural remedy or other types of medications are suitable for you. NEVER just go and take something like Black Cohosh – always check they will not affect your medications.
There are so many other symptoms which are less common and could be really affecting you, such as:
- burning mouth
- itchy / dry skin
- tingling extremities
- change in taste
- digestive changes
- joint pain or muscle soreness
- pelvic floor weakness/tightness
These are just a few less commonly talked about symptoms. You can look into natural remedies or therapies to help with these symptoms like reflexology, acupuncture, natural creams, taking particular supplements.
A word on tight / dry vaginas. Have a look at YES products. They have a very helpful website. You can start using their natural moisturiser (do not put anything else or use any soaps in your vagina) & they have oil or water based lubricants which are better for your vaginal PH levels compared to chemical lubricants like KY. I would start with trying the moisturiser and YES products.
If you speak to a menopause specialist if you are finding it isn’t helping. You CAN actually be prescribed oestrogen pessaries like Vagifem. It has the minutest amount of oestrogen and with all the research they have done so far, they have not found it to affect anywhere else in the body.
However, it is up to you and if you aren’t happy using any oestrogen products, no matter how small, then obviously don’t go down that route. Do chat to your GP who is specialised in menopause.
Alternatives to HRT
As always it is about lifestyle and NOT everything will help everyone. I have written a few blogs for those who can’t take HRT but need help with menopausal symptoms: https://www.vickihill.co.uk/non-hrt-ways-to-support-your-menopausal-body-part-1/ and this one: https://www.vickihill.co.uk/non-hrt-part-2-self-care-exercise-nutrition-weight/
So please read them as there are alternative therapies to try. Obviously, not everything works for everyone, but you may find something like acupuncture can really help you or just getting out and walking more helps with muscle soreness etc.
Alternative therapists that may work for you include:
- seeing a nutritionist
In Summary – you may have to speak to your Dr or google alternatives. You may need to try a few alternative routes before something begins to help. You may also need to change what you eat and drink. If you can afford it then get help or advice.
There are a lot of support groups & nutritionists who are qualified in cancer rehab. Please don’t feel you cant change what you eat or can’t exercise. You can but you often need support to get motivated. Also, look at Penny Brohn – an amazing cancer support charity.