Where to find support for early surgical menopause due to ovarian cancer?

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Ovacome, ovarian cancer charity, help women through surgical menopause

Ovacome was founded in 1996 by Sarah Dickinson who had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and wanted to create opportunities for those affected to share information and support.

The charity’s work today still reflects her vision; they are a strong community of thousands, all working together with the aim of reducing isolation, promoting knowledge and supporting anyone affected by ovarian cancer.

We asked them to tell us more about surgical menopause following cancer treatment for ovarian cancer, and how the charity supports those affected.

 
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At Ovacome we support many women who are experiencing surgical menopause as a result of their cancer treatment. Surgical menopause occurs when a woman has both ovaries removed (bilateral salpingo oophorectomy) before she has experienced her natural menopause. This means she will go into the menopause straight away.

Unlike natural menopause, surgical menopause is not a gradual process and the symptoms can begin almost immediately. 

As with natural menopause, the severity of symptoms will vary, but can feel overwhelming. For women with ovarian cancer, any symptoms have to be managed alongside recovery from surgery (often a total abdominal hysterectomy as well as having ovaries removed, and removal of parts of other affected organs) and managing the side effects of any chemotherapy or hormone treatment.

One of our members describes her surgical menopause and what worked for her in managing her symptoms:

“Mine was quite drastic. A few weeks after my major surgery … I suddenly couldn’t sleep or I’d sleep for two hours and lie in bed awake for the rest of the night. I also suffered from numbness in my hands and insects crawling sensation… The other drastic change was the vaginal dryness which was almost immediate.

My oncologists and the menopause clinic have different opinion[s] about prescribing HRT so I decided to investigate on my own to see what I can do to help alleviate my symptoms.

First, I embraced a low carb lifestyle… Then I found a hormone specialist who measured my hormone levels and prescribed a compound made of natural progesterone and pregnanolone based on my blood test results. I was also prescribed Ovestin Cream (Estriol) for my vaginal dryness. I’ve also been using essential oils to help me with sleep.

So far my symptoms have dissipated. And I’m hoping it will continue that way. I’m not sure if it’s the natural hormones, my change in food habits, the essential oils or a combination. But so far so good! And I’m quite pleased I can sleep soundly again.”

For women experiencing surgical menopause, there is information and support available:

Our factsheet on surgical menopause is on our website here

Our Younger Woman’s Guide to Ovarian Cancer is on our website here

Our sister charity Ovarian Cancer Action has information on their website here

Our Younger Women’s support group runs on the first Wednesday of the month, 6-8pm.

Anyone with questions or concerns about ovarian cancer and surgical menopause, or who would like to attend the support group, can contact Ovacome’s support service on 0800 008 7054 or email support@ovacome.org.uk

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