The month of October is not only a month of cold weather, but also a month of encouragement Breast cancer awareness.
Fighting breast cancer requires a lot of physical and mental strength, and it also affects women’s menstrual cycles.
INTIMINA Gynecologist Dr. Shree Datta, answers questions and advice about breast cancer, chemotherapy and its effects on the body.
Can cancer (especially breast cancer) affect the menstrual cycle and how?
Interestingly, it’s the other way around – studies suggest that the menstrual cycle can affect your risk of breast cancer – for example, the age at which you have your first period and age through menopause will affect your risk of breast cancer.
This refers to the number of menstrual cycles you have; In fact, the number of periods and age of your first pregnancy can also affect your risk of breast cancer.
A long or irregular menstrual cycle means you have fewer periods and can lower the risk of breast cancer in younger women. Early breast cancer may not affect your periods. However, chemotherapy can affect the regularity of your periods, your flow, or in some cases the stop periods.
How does chemotherapy affect the body and menstrual cycle of women?
Chemotherapy is a powerful cocktail of drugs that are designed to kill cancer cells, but can also affect other cells, such as those in your ovaries. It can cause menstrual irregularities, your flow pattern, subfertility, or stop your periods. This can be temporary or permanent and lead to menopausal symptoms.
Periods stop in 20-70% of women with breast cancer, but this depends on the woman’s age. The effect depends on the medication used, the dose administered and the age of the woman. Don’t forget that if you still have periods during chemotherapy, you can still get pregnant.
Other common side effects of chemotherapy include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, mouth ulcers, hair loss, bruising or bleeding, increased risk of infection, mood changes, and tiredness.
How long does it take for a menstrual cycle to return to normal after completing chemotherapy?
It depends on the medication regimen used, the dose administered, the duration of treatment and the age of the woman. Some studies suggest that periods are more common in younger women (i.e., under 40), but this may not always be the case.
In many cases, periods can return within a few months or up to a year, but earlier in younger women.
How many women experience changes in their cycles during chemotherapy?
While periods stop in 20-70% of women with breast cancer, the rate can be less than 5% in women under 30 and up to 50% in women between 36-40 years of age. Some chemotherapy mixes have a higher risk of abandoning your periods. It is therefore worth discussing this with your oncologist in advance.
Keep in mind that even if your periods return, there is a chance that they are irregular and this may not accurately reflect your fertility. If you have any concerns, it is better to consult a gynecologist early on.
What to do if you lose your periods during chemotherapy
If you are concerned about your fertility, not only should you discuss this with your oncologist, but also consult a gynecologist and, in some cases, consider freezing eggs. Monitor your menstrual cycle during and after chemotherapy – remember, not all women stop their periods. During this time there may be an irregular cycle.
When your periods stop you may experience menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats, which in themselves can warrant further treatment.
How can you get your body going again after chemotherapy?
People react differently to chemotherapy, and the time it takes to recover from it varies. On the whole, this is no different from those looking to improve their health – keep a regular daily routine with a balanced diet, get enough sleep, and try to limit your stress.
If you are unsure whether you are getting all of the nutrition you need, consult a nutritionist and consider taking supplements. Avoid alcohol and smoking and try to exercise regularly. Consider meditating and joining a cancer support group to speak to other women who have been treated with chemotherapy.
How can you keep a positive mind?
There is no doubt that this is a stressful time and it is natural to go through a mix of different emotions. So it is important to make sure that you have a good support network of friends and family to help you through the difficult situations. Cancer support groups and counselors can also be helpful in sharing your concerns, feelings, and worries.
Is It Possible To Get Pregnant While Having Chemotherapy?
If you get periods during chemotherapy, you can still get pregnant. If you are considering contraception, barrier contraceptives such as condoms or the diaphragm may be the most appropriate options. Another alternative can be the copper coil.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists generally advises waiting at least 2 years after breast cancer treatment before conceiving due to the risk of relapse in general. However, rest assured that many women have successful pregnancies after cancer treatment.
If you are unsure of your options, contact your doctor early on so that we can answer your questions and completely allay your concerns.
A collective group of “experts” at Intimina who love to share our personal experiences, even if they are a little too personal. We believe it is time to break down the taboos on menstruation, maternity and menopause and own our feminine health.