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September 4, 2012 > With Induced Menopause, Symptoms Can Be Immediate

With Induced Menopause, Symptoms Can Be Immediate

Washington Women's Center Class Focuses on Treatment Options

Menopause is a natural occurrence that happens between the ages of 45 and 55 for most women. It marks the end of a woman's monthly cycle and ability to have children. But sometimes menopause can be caused by a surgical procedure or pharmacological treatments like chemotherapy.

"When the ovaries are surgically removed, menopause is immediate," said Dr. Sudeepthi Prasad, a Fremont gynecologist and member of the Washington Hospital medical staff. "The symptoms literally happen overnight."

Prasad will explain how this occurs and ways to manage symptoms at an upcoming class titled "Induced Menopause." The free class is scheduled for Wednesday, September 12, from 7 to 8 p.m. It will be held in the Women's Center Conference Room, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont. You can register online at www.whhs.com or call (510) 608-1301 for more information.

During the natural menopause process, the ovaries stop making eggs and produce less estrogen and progesterone, Prasad explained. Menstrual periods occur less frequently and eventually stop. These hormonal changes can cause menopause symptoms, with the most common being hot flashes and night sweats. Other symptoms include a pounding or racing heart, trouble sleeping, headaches, mood swings, decreased interest in sex, and vaginal dryness.

"With induced menopause, the symptoms can be more severe," she added. "Unlike natural menopause, when estrogen levels decline over several years, induced menopause causes a sudden and dramatic loss of estrogen."

Prasad will talk about some of the causes of induced menopause. For example, the ovaries may need to be removed to treat cancer, endometriosis, or other medical conditions.

"We try to remove only one ovary to avoid induced menopause," she said. "But that is not always possible depending on the diagnosis."

Chemotherapy is a common cause of pharmacological-induced menopause. The powerful drugs often kill healthy cells in addition to the cancer cells, and the ovaries are very susceptible to damage by chemotherapy, Prasad explained. Radiation therapy is also commonly used to treat cancer. While it targets the specific area where the cancer is located, it can also affect healthy cells in that area. Radiation directed at the pelvic area is likely to damage the ovaries, inducing menopause.

Managing Symptoms

She will discuss ways for women who experience induced menopause to manage the symptoms, including hormone replacement therapy. Estrogen can be taken alone or in combination with progesterone, depending on whether the woman still has her uterus and other risk factors.

"Hormone replacement therapy is the most effective way to reduce menopausal symptoms," Prasad said. "Some women are concerned about taking hormones because the Women's Health Initiative study showed an increased risk for breast cancer, heart disease, and stroke with hormone replacement therapy. But the study focused on older, postmenopausal women, and many already had heart disease. The risk is actually very low. For many women with early menopause, the benefits significantly outweigh the risks. I would not recommend hormone replacement therapy for women who already have breast cancer or heart disease."

Prasad said women should use the lowest effective dose possible and she recommends the patch rather than the pill form. She will explain the different types of hormone therapies available today, including bioidentical hormones. These hormones are plant-based and formulated to have the same chemical structure as the hormones the body makes, she said.

She will also talk about some alternative therapies that may help to reduce the symptoms of menopause. For example, certain medications for hypertension can help to reduce hot flashes. Women who exercise regularly often have milder symptoms than sedentary women, and eating a healthy diet that includes soy-based products and plenty of fruits and vegetables may also help, she added.

"The best course for managing symptoms depends on the severity of those symptoms and certain health conditions," Prasad said. "For women who only have a couple hot flashes a day, lifestyle changes may be enough. But for those who are having symptoms that are significantly impacting quality of life, hormone replacement therapy may be the best option."

For information about other services offered at the Washington Women's Center, visit www.whhs.com/womenscenter.

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