What is it?
Right now there are around 110,000 of us experiencing early menopause in the UK alone.
Think about that on a global scale and you might be wondering, just like we are, why on earth isn’t anyone talking about it?
If you’re under 45 and your periods stop, this is counted as early or premature menopause – sometimes called Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) or Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI).
Here at GEN M, we’re committed to supporting everyone affected by the menopause, regardless of age, and you’ll find loads of advice and ideas for managing your symptoms across our site.
We also really recommend checking out The Daisy Network – a specialist charity dedicated to helping women affected by POI.
There are a host of reasons which lead to some of us being thrust into the menopause before our time. Here are the most common.
Some will be in their early forties, thirties or twenties – or even younger, with 12 reported as the earliest age – when their periods naturally come to a halt.
It can be hard to spot, as many of us use contraceptives during these years which completely stop or mess with the regularity of our periods, however you’ll often have other menopausal symptoms like fatigue or hot flushes.
Doctors can’t always tell their patients exactly why it’s happened, though it may run in your family, or is sometimes caused by auto-immunue conditions or chromosome abnormalities.
Typically, cancers affecting the female reproductive system can be aggressive. This means many women are not only hit with the news they’ve got cancer, but have to make a quick decision about having a hysterectomy – major surgery which involves the ovaries, womb and cervix being removed.
Having a full hysterectomy means you’ll wake up on the other side of the operation in the menopause. On top of everything else going on, it’s a lot to deal with – both mentally and physically. You may want to consider discussing Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) with your doctor before or soon after your operation.
Doctors use chemotherapy to treat many different types of cancer. It’s an anti-cancer drug which is usually injected straight into the bloodstream or given as a tablet. It moves round the body and attacks cancerous cells wherever it finds them.
Although it’s a very effective treatment, it does attack some healthy cells – which may lead to an early menopause.
Certain types of cancer, including cervical, may be treated with targeted radiotherapy to the pelvic area to attack the cancerous cells.
One of the side effects can be damage to your ovaries, triggering the menopause and causing symptoms. This will usually happen around three months into treatment, and depending on your age and the health of your reproductive system, can be temporary or permanent.
Hormone treatments for breast cancer
If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, as part of your care you may be given a hormonal treatment which reduces the amount of oestrogen your body produces, as this hormone can actually encourage some cancers to grow.
A side effect is that these new low levels stop your ovaries from releasing eggs, effectively causing a temporary menopause and symptoms alongside.