World Menopause Day 2023 - Surgical/Medical Induced Menopause Awareness
Last updated: 1.39pm, Wednesday 4th October 2023
The 18th October is World Menopause Day and I wanted to increase awareness of this particular group of women who not only are dealing with a cancer diagnosis and treatment but also enter the menopause, often earlier than they would have naturally.
I recently I had the pleasure of being invited to the Maggie’s Cancer Charity in Glasgow to discuss the benefits of exercise in a medical and surgical induced menopause. This was for women who have been affected by breast or ovarian cancer. What a wonderful friendly and peaceful setting with the most beautiful building and gardens. Thank you for the warm welcome.
What is the Menopause?
Before menopause, the ovaries produce the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. These control a woman’s monthly cycle (periods).
During menopause, periods gradually stop as the ovaries stop producing these hormones. For most women, this usually happens naturally between the ages of 45 and 55, the average age in UK being 51. The female body physiologically functions with these hormones up until this age. This reduction in hormones causes many symptoms.
Hormones are powerful chemicals.
There are oestrogen and progesterone receptors all over our body. So, it can effect just about every body system from musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, and psychological. Nutrition, stress, sleep and exercise all affect hormones.
Normally the menopause is preceded by the peri menopause- whereby symptoms fluctuate, and periods become irregular. This can be quite a hormone rollercoaster causing awide variety of symptoms such as hot flushes, brain fog, and bloating, to name just a few. In surgical/medical induced menopause, some women can experience the menopause with no such adjustment period.
What is Induced Menopause?
With medical and surgical menopause, the ovaries stop functioning and hormone levels fall immediatly (surgical menopause) or over a period of weeks or months (medical menopause) — not over a few years, as usually happens with natural menopause (perimenopause). The suddenness of surgical menopause can cause intense symptoms for younger premenopausal women. Medical menopause tends to feel more like the natural menopause. However, the experience really depends on the individual woman.
There are over 34 menopause symptoms and you may get some or many of these – after all, each woman’s experience of menopause is completely unique. If you are in menopause common syptoms include:
- Low mood
- Weight gain
- Hot flushes
- Vaginal dryness
- Brain fog
- Leaking urine
- Low energy
- Sleep issues
Women who are going through induced menopause or experience menopause after a hysterectomy that removes their ovaries will need specialist support. Symptoms can be more intense than spontaneous menopause, and the consequences on long-term health can be more significant, such as the risk of osteoporosis. Symptoms do not appear gradually as with spontaneous menopause but suddenly and abruptly, or over a relatively short time.
It’s important to understand that the impact of cancer treatment and menopause is even greater because you have a complete reduction in hormone levels, oestrogen and androgens, and not a gradual decline. That means that symptoms may suddenly appear, which can be very challenging after cancer treatment.
Induced menopause symptoms can also be more intense for women who are premenopausal.
Long term effects on health
Menopause, and particularly early menopause may increase the risk of bone thinning (osteoporosis) and heart disease. Exercise can help with the following:
High blood pressure:
Regular physical activity improves and maintains heart fucntion and has been proven to reduce blood pressure.
Physical activity raises your levels of good cholesterol (HDL), and lowers the bad cholesterol (LDL), so it’s less likely to clog up the arteries which can cause a heart attack or stroke.
Type II Diabetes
Physical activity helps to maintain normal blood glucose (sugar) and prevent the development of type II diabetes.
Heart and circulatory diseases kill 1 in 4 people in the UK. Physical inactivity is one of the key risk factors for heart and circulatory diseases such as angina, heart attack, stroke and vascular dementia. The risk is increased by being overweight, having high cholesterol, high blood pressue, cigarette smoking, or Type II diabetes. Increasing daily activity is one important way to improve your heart health.
How can we help?
We can help women to return or begin their exercise journey to enable them to benefit as from a healthy lifestyle. This is a bespoke, personal approach as every woman is different.
How much is recommended?
Government Chief Medical Officer guidelines recommend:
Adults aged 18–64 years.
Should do at least 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity.
At least 75–150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity; or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity throughout the week.
Should also do muscle-strengthening activities at moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these provide additional health benefits.
Muscle & Bone Mass & Strength
For information on how physical activity can help muscles and bone strength, please see my previous blog feature: MENOPAUSE & EXERCISE ADVICE.
For women that have had a cancer diagnosis, it can be a shock to deal with cancer and then face the symptoms of induced menopause. The combined impact of cancer, the post-traumatic stress of diagnosis and treatment, and then unexpected menopause is a massive thing to deal with. You may find recovery complex, with low mood and libido and fatigue.
Low hormone levels can lead to dark thoughts, brain fog, lack of concentration, low libido, and inability to sleep.
Exercise is something for yourself. It is your time to focus on you and take your mind away from all the stresses. It can stop over thinking, and let you enjoy the moment. It is a case of finding something that suits you that you get a buzz out of, or enjoy or helps you to switch off. Some medications can make exercise feel like the last thing you want to do, or make you feel nauseous. Try to do what you can when you can. Be kind to yourself on these days. Even getting outside in the garden or focusing on relaxation breathing techniques can be beneficial. Rest days are important too. There will be other days where you’ll do more than the recommended levels of activity. The key is to start slowly and build up. Choose an activty that you enjoy. Being active with a friend increase motiation and fun.
Physical activity will help to Increase endorphins which are the chemicals in the body that make us feel better within ourselves and give us a natural high. This will help you feel more relaxed and positive within.
Louise leads our Physiotherapy for Women service at Hampden Sports Clinic.
An exciting clinic aimed at getting all women active.
If you would like any more information on the benefits of exercise or are struggling with an injury, or affected by anything discussed here, then please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’d love to hear from you.
Check our website for full info around our Physiotherapy for Women service. Alternatively, you can e-mail Louise on firstname.lastname@example.org.