Chemo induced menopause - support please!

Hi all, can anyone offer any advice to me please? I am halfway through my chemo, have had 4 X epi and just started on my 4 X CMF and in the last month have suddenly been kicked into the menopause, with hot flushes probably half hourly in bed at night and pretty regularly during the day as well. Was warned about this but its still a lot to deal with on top of the other stuff.

Macmillan nurse and others have suggested Sage tablets to try but I just cant tolerate these, they repeat on me even tho theyre in a capsule and on top of the nausea they take me over the acceptable edge so have stopped them although I think they helped a bit.

I realize its difficult as dont want to ingest anything containing plant oestrogens are have been warned the jury’s out on whether they may contribute to recurrence, and as my cancer is oestrogen positive not prepared to take that risk. Has anyone any practical tips or advice they can share about what has helped them please? it would be great if so. And also, how long will these symptoms last. I have friends not with breast cancer who have been going through menopause for years. As I’d been told mine will be quicker and more severe because of the chemo does that mean it will be over sooner or am I being overly optimistic :slight_smile:

thanks to everyone and hope you are all managing out there.
Carol x

Hiya
I had the same experience. Hideous flushes every 20 mins to begin with. It does get better, but it took over a year. Chillow pillows are good at night and fans. There are pills from the GP, but they didn’t work for me, neither did primrose oil. Exercising regularly helped a bit, I think, and avoiding hot coffee and sugary snacks. Poor you - I hope it doesn’t last too long

xxx

Hi Carol,

I had the same problem but unfortunately I didn’t find anything that worked either. I had to work round it by wearing layers that I could peel off (clothing and bedding). My GP gave me Temazepam to help me sleep because I was desperate.

The only hope I can offer is that it didn’t last as long as friends who are going through it naturally. I had my last chemo August 09 and the flushes have gone in the last month or so. I was told to expect it would be permanent but I even think I might be about to get my periods back and I’m 49 this week.

Jan xx

thanks so much ladies, one of you says it lasted about 7 months and the other just over a year, thats better than non chemo friends and my sister who have reported 3 -4 years but I suspect we hit it harder and faster. My Gawd I hope my periods dont return, I’m 52 later this year and the thought of going through this then getting them back is not good!! I may well try the chillow pillow, and perhaps will consult my gp or try something to help me sleep through em. You do tend to wake up though when your head’s on fire dont you :slight_smile: I think in a way I feel better knowing its not just me though, your support is much appreciated. I hope you are both doing ok now.

thanks again, love Carol x

Hi Carol I was just speaking to a lady on Friday about this very subject and she highly recommended the chillow pilow. She has one herself and it takes the heat right away from your head. She said it feels cold to the touch at first but told me to go out and buy one as it is so good. I think you can order them online.
I had a chemo induced menopause way back in 1989. But 21 years on and I have recently gone on to a new hormone tablet called Letrozole and I am having the hot flushes all over again…damn! I hope you get your side effects under control soon. Take care love Val

hi cassy i was also on epi-cmf and although i was fine on the epi the cmf also knocked me into the menopause… its the cyclophosphamide that does it.

i had horrendous flushes worse than any id ever had on tamoxifen however a couple of months after finishing the cmf and they have died down again… im not sure if im trough and out the other side of the menopause or they are just less so as im not getting chemo pumped into me… cmf puts almost 99% of women over 45 into a permanent menopause so its very unlikely that your periods will restart although not impossible.

try to avoid caffiene and alcohol, hot drinks and spicy foods etc which increase your body thermostat anyway. wear cotton next to your skin and wear loose light layers that you can peel off when you get hot. i carry a fan in my bag too and always have a bottle of cold water. i dont have a chillow pillow just about 6 pillows in bed so i rotate them when one gets too warm.

since the flushes have died down its joint pain that i have most problems with so thats a bit irritating as it affects my mobility some of the time and also my fine motor skills due to finger joint pain.

im glad they warned you that you would go into the menopause i was told that chemo can affect fertility but not in very much detail except to say that the closer you are to the menopause the more likely you are to go through it… i was 40 when i started chemo so thought 10 years was quite far away from the menopause and was planning to have a baby after treatment but was informed in january id gone through it already… bit of a shocker really as my onc had told me to try for a baby sooner rather than later because of my age but didnt tell me it was highly likely id be infertile.

anyway i hope your symptoms improve when your treatment ends… i had my last chemo in nov and think the flushes had stopped by january.

Lulu x

Hi LULU

Thanks Lulu - not my post but relevant as i’m just about to go for second AC chemo next week - age 46 and a half and nobody i mean nobody has discussed/mentioned menopause stuff ( not that i’m surprised but that’s not the point )

Cheers , as ever you’re so switched on

Lynn

Hi all

Here’s a link to the ‘Menopausal symptoms and breast cancer’ BCC publication which you may find helpful to read:

breastcancercare.org.uk/healthcare-professionals/publications/quick-order-list/*/changeTemplate/PublicationDisplay/publicationId/17/

Best wishes
Lucy

lynn for some reason i think the professionals just assume you that you know your going to become menopausal because your over 40 without the need to explain it.

85% of women over 40 will go into menopause and depending on the dose of cyclophosphamide you get the more likely you are to.

the sad thing was i had been to see my consultant the year before i was diagnosed about stopping tamoxifen to conceive and that was in my notes but nobody thought to mention the impact of the chemo.

all the literature you get is equally as vague as the professionals saying chemo may affect your fertility and more so if your older… but i think the professionals need to say to any woman who is premenopausal and assess her individually… we all have different wants, needs and expectations after all.

and i think even the information provided should give you a rough idea that 50% of women between 35 and 40 will become menopausal and 85% of women between 41 and 45 will and almost 100% over 45 will.

for info check out the research by Susan E. Minton, DO, Pamela N. Munster on medscape… interesting reading.

Lulu x

Hi Cassy,

I went through the menopause too after having E-CMF + tamoxifen. The hot flushes were awful initially - especially as I was still wearing a wig and just wanted to pull it off at every opportunity. The sleepless nights were especially hard to cope with, made worse that it coincided with my returning to work.
I didnt really rate the chillow-pillow and stopped using it, I found swopping pillows over helped me more. I did have a fan in my bedroom though and found that reallllly helped. I also always carried a bottle of water with me and that was a life saver.
Now - the good news is, it does get easier - whether you just get use to it all or the symptoms lessen, im not sure, but it does get easier.
Good luck to you,
K x

Dear all, thanks so much for your continued comments which are really helpful it does seem that this is a subject which gives us all much trouble. I so identified with the comment about wanting to rip off your wig as you get overcome with a flush - I share that sentiment. Was in town centre today and had a warm moment, and was very tempted - but its Easter hols and would have scared the many children out and about!!

Lulu I am so sorry to learn that you are unable to have children - my heart breaks for you that this wasnt picked up on by your consultants before commencing you on the chemotherapy. I hope you have the strength to deal with this blow in addition to everything else. Sending you a huge virtual hug, you seem like a very practical and pragmatic lady but this must be so hard to deal with.

love to everyone - must go now as cant believe its after nine pm, I’m at home, and for some bizarre reason still sporting a wig!! time to go and get cool. Carol x

im afraid i was a scarf/hat/wig-ripper-offer… i used to ask if people minded if whipped it off but then sometimes i just had a major flush in the supermarket or similar and just felt like id pass out if i didnt take it off so i just did… after id done it a couple of times i just didnt bother and went shopping or to lunch with my baldy head… never managed to scary any children… kids are very accepting.

carol thanks for your message… i was really upset and angry when i found out, still gets to me sometimes but iv come to terms with it more now… just annoying that it was never really discussed.

iv got a new job as a breast care nurse starting in a few weeks and i will definitely make a point of not just assuming people do or dont want children.

Lxx

Lulu you will be fantastic at that job, you have a lot of insight from personal experience and loads of empathy and I am sure you will make every effort to make sure your patients are fully informed and listened too. Well done and I hope your new job gives you satisfaction. I have been very lucky here in Warrington area with the support and information from medical staff, its still great to talk to other people who’ve been through it though.
love Carol.

Is anyone still having periods after 2nd chemo?

Hi Ado,

Mine didn’t stop until after the 3rd FEC.

Lulu, I’ve definitely had what seems to be a period this week. I saw my onc on Thursday for a check up and she’s taken blood samples to check just in case there’s something else going on. If my periods have come back I’m not sure whether to be pleased or annoyed. I suppose it means I have to go through it all again. I asked my mum and she didn’t complete hers until she was 60. Not a pleasant thought!

Jan xx

glad your getting it looked into Jan… think if your mum was 60 then you may well find that you are still premenopausal at the moment which means you would have to go through it all again.

Lxx

Saw Onc today, she not concerned about continuing periods but did say if they continue after chemo finished as my cancer is an oestrogen one she will give injections to " turn off the ovaries"

I am just about to start the CMF element of my treatment after finishing 4 Epi afew weeks ago. I was told that my periods would stop with my treatment which was the first positive i grasped from ungoing chemo so when on my 2nd Epi i had the period from hell i was gutted. I became so anemic i needed a blood transfusion before my 3rd Epi. But that said i haven’t had one since (yippee) I am interested in the hot flushes topic - as i have been really hot overnight but just thought it was cause it was hot. Is this abit silly?? Temperature was ok so i haven’t really put 2 and 2 together - is this the start? I begin CMF next week which is hard to deal with as just as i got to grips with the Epi it is like starting all over again with all the worry about it all and the side effects. Every day is a day closer to the end.
LOL
Wendy
x

Hi Wendy, at just about your stage with one week to go to finish of the Epi I had my first hot flush, then missed a period, so I would say you are now starting the hot and bothered stage. I have taken notice of the info from the other ladies on this and other website and got my chillow pillow yesterday mail order. it helps a bit at night. And also sporting some magnet-y thing called lady Care. not sure if it helps but willing to try everything to keep it all manageable. I am learning to recognise when a flush is creeping up and if poss I just get outside to cool off. I am in middle of my first CMF cycle, have had both the injections and finish the tablets on Friday, and it seems more manageable to me than the Epi but low grade nausea and tiredness most of the time. A bonus is the treatments are much shorter too, over in about ten minutes. Hope you go on ok. thinking of you. love Carol

Hi CassyR

You may find it useful to have a look at the BCC booklet ‘Menopausal symptoms and breast cancer’, it has specific section on hot flushes.
If you would like to order a copy or to read it on line just follow this link:-

breastcancercare.org.uk/healthcare-professionals/publications/quick-order-list/*/changeTemplate/PublicationDisplay/publicationId/17/

I hope this helps.

Best wishes Sam (BCC Facilitator)