Managing the Menopause
The symptoms of the menopause will pass, but this may take a couple of years. If they are troublesome, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can relieve many of the symptoms of menopause for most women. This is because HRT replaces the hormones that your body is no longer producing. Other medicines that might help are: anti-depressants (these can be called selective serotonin receptor inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), gabapentin, clonidine, selective oestrogen receptor modulators (SORMs) and bisphosphonates . Your doctor will be able to advise on whether or not these are suitable for you.
Complementary therapies and supplements (evening primrose oil, and plant oestrogens such as black cohosh, red clover, soybeans and flaxseed) might also help relieve symptoms . If you do favour the more natural approaches, please seek advice from a qualified practitioner and also discuss your thoughts with your doctor to make sure these therapies will be safe for you. Plant oestrogens, for example, might not be safe for some women who have had breast cancer.
You can also help relieve your symptoms by adopting a healthier lifestyle. Regular exercise will help alleviate emotional and psychological symptoms, and weight-bearing exercise (exercise that puts pressure on your bones; for example, walking, jogging and cycling) can help protect against osteoporosis. It's also thought that certain triggers - alcohol, spicy foods, caffeine and smoking - can provoke hot flushes, so you may want to cut down on these .
Managing pain during sex and loss of libido
Surgery and radiotherapy to the pelvic area can cause vaginal dryness, and make your vagina shorter, narrower and less stretchy. The skin inside the vagina can also become so delicate that it tears easily. If, after having these treatments, sex becomes uncomfortable or painful, you may need to use vaginal dilators - cone shaped objects that you put into your vagina to help stretch it. You can also try to gently stretch your vagina through sexual intercourse (if this is possible and not too painful), or using your fingers or a vibrator. You may be able to use vaginal oestrogen - oestrogen in a cream, ring tablet or pessary that you put into your vagina about twice a week. And you can also buy creams and lubricants that you put into your vagina just before you have sex. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for advice, this is a very common problem.
After treatment for cervical cancer, you may not feel in the mood for sex. This is quite normal after treatment for any type of cancer as your body and emotions will be in turmoil. There may be an added factor for women who’ve been treated for cervical cancer – if your ovaries are removed or damaged during treatment, the fall in your hormone levels may cause you to lose interest in having sex. If you are in a relationship it will be important to discuss how you’re feeling about sex with your partner. Together you should be able to work out what is best for you both so that you can continue to show each other affection and feel loved. If loss of sexual desire is a problem, your doctor might suggest combining HRT with testosterone, although it is still not certain how helpful these are or how safe they are in the long term.
Going through the menopause means that women become unable to have children naturally. This loss of fertility can be upsetting even if you've had a family or did not intend to have children. It can also be particularly hard to deal with if you're going through early menopause, and have not yet had the children you wish to have. It will be important for you to discuss your feelings around infertility with your partner so you can support each other through this difficult time.
- Dunleavey R. 2009. Cervical Cancer: A Guide for Nurses. Wiley-Blackwell, UK.
- Dennehy C. 2006. The use of herbs and dietary supplements in gynecology: an evidence-based review. Journal of Midwifery Women’s Health, 51 (6), 402 – 409
"Managing the Menopause." Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust. N.p., 19 Aug. 2013. Web. 02 Mar. 2015.