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Menopause and cervical cancer

Menopause as a direct result of cervical cancer treatment can be very hard to deal with, partly because of the physical and emotional side effects that come with it. Whether the menopause has just started or you have been through it, treatment is available and we are also here to help. 

On this page, we talk through what menopause is and why treatments for cervical cancer may trigger it. In this section, we also have pages about:

What is the menopause?

The menopause is when you stop having periods (monthly bleeding). 

It usually happens naturally between age 45 and 55, as your oestrogen and progesterone levels go down. Oestrogen is the main female sex hormone that you need for puberty, periods, and pregnancy, among other things. Progesterone is another female sex hormone that makes sure the womb is in good condition. 

Read menopause charity The Daisy Network’s information about hormones >

During menopause, periods usually stop gradually, happening less often over a few months or years. Sometimes they stop suddenly.  

What is a premature or early menopause?

If menopause happens before age 40, it is called a premature ovarian insufficiency (POI).

If menopause happens between ages 40 and 45, it is called a premature or early menopause.

The menopause may be naturally premature or early. But menopause can also happen if your ovaries stop working due to some cervical cancer treatments. 

If menopause starts after treatment, your periods usually stop sooner than they would naturally or straight away, and you may have other symptoms of menopause sooner, such as hot flushes and vaginal dryness.

Read more about menopausal symptoms >

Why can treatment for cervical cancer trigger the menopause?

Some treatments for cervical cancer can trigger the menopause:

  • Surgery that removes your ovaries, such as a hysterectomy, will immediately trigger the menopause.
  • Pelvic radiotherapy can damage your ovaries, which can sometimes trigger the menopause. If this happens, it is usually about 3 months after treatment starts. 
  • Chemotherapy can affect how the ovaries work. They may stop making eggs, which can trigger the menopause.  

Menopause after pelvic radiotherapy or chemotherapy may last for a short time (temporary) or forever (permanent). This usually depends on your age and the dose of radiation or type of drugs used. 

Read more about treatments for cervical cancer >

Where do I get support for the menopause?

If your treatment for cervical cancer may trigger the menopause, you may want to speak with your healthcare team about where you can get support beforehand. How you get support varies depending on where you live, so they will be able to explain what happens in your area. 

Read more about managing menopausal symptoms >

You may be offered support by a dedicated menopause clinic in the hospital. Sometimes, your GP will be able to offer you support during menopause. 

If you prefer, you can also find a menopause expert yourself. The British Menopause Society (BMS) has a register where can you search for experts in your area. 

Find a menopause expert in your area >

More information and support

Although the menopause can cause symptoms that impact your life, there are ways to manage them. As well as relying on your healthcare team for support, remember that we are here too. 

Read our information about managing menopausal symptoms >

If you have questions or just want to talk through what is happening, call our Helpline on 0808 802 8000. Our Ask the Expert service can help with any medical questions, while our online Forum lets you chat with others who are going through or have been through menopause.

Get support >

Other useful organisations and tools

Menopause: The One-Stop Guide book 
Written by Kathy Abernethy, an experienced nurse, this book offers a practical guide to understanding and living with the menopause. Available online and in selected stores. Kathy is one of the experts who reviewed this information.

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
Has an information hub about women’s health covering the menopause and beyond.
www.rcog.org.uk/en/patients/menopause

The Daisy Network
Provides support to women, along with their families and partners, who have been diagnosed with premature ovarian insufficiency.
www.daisynetwork.org

Women’s Health Concern
The woman’s arm of the British Menopause Society (BMS). Provide information and support about the menopause, including benefits and risks.
www.womens-health-concern.org

Thank you to all the experts who checked the accuracy of this information, and the volunteers who shared their personal experience to help us develop it. 

References

  • Farquhar CM. et al, The association of hysterectomy and menopause: a prospective cohort study, BJOG, 2005. 
  • Huffman LB. et al, Maintaining Sexual Health throughout Gynecologic Cancer Survivorship: A Comprehensive Review and Clinical Guide, Gynecologic Oncology, 2015.
  • Wo JY. et al, Impact of Radiotherapy on Fertility, Pregnancy, and Neonatal Outcomes in Female Cancer Patients, International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics, 2009.

We write our information based on literature searches and expert review. For more information about all the references we used, please contact [email protected]

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"I was given the choice of having my ovaries removed at the same time which would catapult me into early menopause."
Read Annie's story
Date last updated: 
20 Sep 2019
Date due for review: 
20 Sep 2022