In the US, breast cancer affects more women than any other type of cancer. It accounts for 30% (or 1 in 3) of all new cases of cancer in women each year. According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 8 American women may eventually get invasive breast cancer (about 13%) in the upcoming year. By the end of 2022, it is anticipated that there will be 51,400 new instances of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer and 287,850 new cases of invasive breast cancer among women in the U.S.
Breast cancer is a type of cancer that develops in the breast. It may begin in either the left or right breast. When cells start to multiply uncontrollably, cancer develops. It’s crucial to know that the majority of breast lumps are benign and not cancerous (malignant). Breast tumors that are not cancerous are abnormal growths that do not spread to the exterior of the breast. While most benign breast lumps are not life-threatening, some of them can raise a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. Any breast lump should be examined by a medical practitioner to determine whether it is benign or malignant (cancer) and whether it may increase your chance of developing cancer in the future.
While breast cancer can have an impact on a patient’s physical and mental health, its frequent impact on menstrual cycles is lesser known or acknowledged. Due to this, the intimate health care company INTIMINA asked Dr. Shree Datta, an expert gynecologist, to address some of the most important queries regarding breast cancer and menstruation in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Does the menstrual cycle affect your risk for cancer (breast cancer specifically)?
The menstrual cycle can increase your risk of breast cancer. For instance, the age at which you get your first period and the age at which you reach menopause do affect your risk of breast cancer. This refers to how frequently you menstruate; in fact, both the frequency of your periods and the age of your first pregnancy can impact your risk of breast cancer. Fewer periods result from a protracted or irregular menstrual cycle, which can also reduce the risk of breast cancer in younger women. Your period may not be affected by early breast cancer. Nevertheless, using chemotherapy may have an impact on your period’s flow, regularity, or even stoppage.
Are women’s bodies and menstrual cycles affected by chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy, a potent medication cocktail used to treat cancer, can also harm healthy cells, including those in your ovaries. It can affect your flow pattern, subfertility, or stop your periods. It can also induce irregular menstruation. Menopause symptoms may occur from this, whether it is transient or permanent. Depending on the woman’s age, 20–70% of breast cancer patients experience a stoppage of menstruation. The medications used, the dose administered, and the age of the woman all affect how it works. Remember that you still have a possibility to get pregnant if you are still getting your period while undergoing chemotherapy. Loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, mouth ulcers, hair loss, bruising or bleeding, an increased risk of infection, changes in mood, and exhaustion are some typical adverse effects of chemotherapy.
How long does it take once chemotherapy is over for a menstrual cycle to return to normal?
This depends on the pharmaceutical regimen, the dosage, the length of the treatment, and the age of the lady. According to certain research, younger women (i.e. those under 40 had a higher chance of having periods again; however, this may not always be the case. In many situations, periods might resume within a few months or even a year, while younger women may experience this sooner.
How many women have their cycles alter after chemotherapy, and how long does it take for everything to return to normal?
While 20%–70% of women with breast cancer experience a cessation of their period, the rate can range from less than 5% in women under the age of 30 and up to 50% in women aged 36–40. It is important to address this in advance with your oncologist because certain chemotherapy combinations have a higher risk of stopping your period. Remember that even if your periods start up again, there’s a risk they’ll be erratic, which can mean they don’t truly reflect your fertility. It is preferable to speak with a gynecologist as soon as possible if you have any worries.
What to do if you stop menstruating while receiving chemotherapy?
If you are worried about your fertility, it’s important to speak with a gynecologist as well as your oncologist, and in certain situations, you may want to think about egg freezing. You should keep an eye on your menstrual cycle both during and after chemotherapy because not all women see an end to their periods at that time. If your periods do stop, you can have menopausal symptoms including hot flashes and night sweats, which could call for additional medical attention.
How can your body recover from chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy has diverse effects on different people, and recovery times also vary. Overall, this is similar to advice given to those who want to improve their health: maintain a regular daily schedule, eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep, and try to reduce your exposure to stress. Consult a dietitian if you’re unsure that you’re getting all the nutrients you require and think about taking supplements. Don’t drink or smoke, and try to exercise frequently. Join a cancer support group to connect with other women who have been through chemotherapy, and think about practicing meditation.
How can one maintain optimism?
There is no denying that this is a trying time, and it’s normal to experience a range of different emotions, so it’s critical to have a strong network of friends and family to lean on when things get difficult. Counselors and cancer support groups can also be beneficial for talking through your anxieties and emotions.
Can a woman become pregnant while receiving chemotherapy?
Even if you are receiving chemotherapy, you could still become pregnant. Methods of birth control, such as condoms or the diaphragm, may be the best choice if you’re thinking about using contraception. The copper coil is still another option. Due to the danger of relapse, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists often suggest waiting at least two years following breast cancer treatment before getting pregnant. Despite this advice, many women go on to successfully carry a pregnancy after cancer treatment.
A considerable amount of breast cancer-related information is available everywhere every October, which is very useful for women. Breast cancer awareness is crucial because early identification, and thorough screening can identify the illness when it is most curable. Every woman should be aware of how her breasts typically feel and look so she can spot any changes at once. Women should ideally have routine mammograms and clinical breast exams because these can help diagnose breast cancer before any symptoms appear.