The years up to when I’d be undergoing menopause can be counted on my fingers. Although I’ve read up on menopause and menopausal symptoms, I still anticipate the stage with trepidation.
Menopause presents a wide range of physical and emotional symptoms, including:
- Moodiness and/or irritability
- Decreased sex drive
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleep disturbances (i.e. night sweats)
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Joint and muscle aches
- Hair loss
- Frequent urination
- Symptoms similar to premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
It is no wonder that women undergoing menopause often feel some insecurity about their health, especially how menopause can affect cancer risk and prevention. Dr. Therese Bevers, a specialist at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas, USA tries to clarify some of the questions on the link between cancer and menopause. According to Dr. Bevers:
- “Menopause does not cause cancer.” However, cancer risk increases with advancing age.
- A late menopause is associated with certain types of cancer. Those who undergo menopause after age 55 have an increased risk of breast as well as endometrial cancer.
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is often prescribed to alleviate menopausal symptoms. However, HRT has been linked to breast cancer.
It is therefore advisable to look for safer alternatives to HRT. Most of these are lifestyle changes, etc.:
- Exercising regularly
- Increasing calcium and vitamin D in your diet
- Reducing stress
- Getting enough sleep
- Avoiding hot flash triggers like coffee, tea and alcohol
- Quitting smoking
In addition, weight gain or loss after menopause can also affect cancer risk. At this stage of life, weight gain actually increases whereas weight loss decreases cancer risk.