Treating the menopause

There are many different ways to treat symptoms of a surgical menopause, you may like to discuss the options with your GP or consultant:

Following a healthy lifestyle

It is advised that following a healthy lifestyle can help to ease menopausal symptoms:

  • Eat a healthy balanced diet that includes around 700mg calcium a day – calcium can be found in dairy, and also in food such as sardines, chocolate, almonds and oranges
  • Exercise enough to feel breathless 3-5 times a week to maintain good bone and heart health
  • Give up smoking
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Maintain a healthy weight

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

Women who go through menopause before the age of 45 years are often offered hormone replacement therapy (HRT), also known as oestrogen therapy.

HRT can relieve the symptoms of menopause and benefit long-term health by replacing some hormones but is not always suitable for all women. HRT is thought to:

  • Prevent loss of bone strength
  • Maintain a healthy heart
  • Prevent cognitive decline in later life (Eg. memory)

How is it given?

After a surgical menopause HRT is given as one hormone (oestrogen therapy) as tablets, patches or gels. Women who still have a womb will need two hormones, oestrogen and progestogen, but treatment remains the same.

What are the side effects?

Side effects of taking HRT can include breast tenderness, headaches and leg cramps but usually improve with time. Occasionally a change in dose or type of oestrogen will be necessary and your doctor will work with you to find the most appropriate dose and type. You may need to try a couple before finding one that suits you.

What are the risks?

There has been a lot of research into the safety of HRT but not so much is known about the risks and the benefits after surgery for ovarian cancer.

It is important to discuss the risks of HRT with your doctor and, if possible, get a referral to someone who specialises in dealing with women who are experiencing the menopause because of cancer treatment.

Citalopram, Paroxetine and Venlafaxine

These drugs are classed as antidepressant medicines but also help menopausal flushes and sweats when used at low doses. Clonidine is a blood pressure medicine that may help flushes. If later in life you experience bone density loss, you may be prescribed drugs to treat osteoporosis.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

has been proven to be a safe and effective treatment for women who experience menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats with additional benefits to mood, sleep and quality of life. The CBT Register UK allows you to search for a therapist in your area: www.cbtregister.com

Herbal supplements

There are lots of herbal and dietary supplements aimed at helping with the menopause. However evidence showing whether or not hey work is inconsistent so you may wish to ask a pharmacist for advice. Taking herbal supplements can also sometimes interfere with other medications.

Vaginal oestrogen

Vaginal oestrogen is effective at reducing vaginal dryness and sexual discomfort experienced during the menopause.

It is taken as a cream, tablet or vaginal ring and can be used alone or alongside conventional hormone replacment therapy (HRT).

Vaginal oestrogen only eases symptoms associated with the vagina but is associated with fewer side effects and risks compared with hormone replacment therapy.