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What Is Induced Menopause?

Menopause is a natural process of the reproductive system that signifies the end of a woman's fertility and menstrual cycles.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 14 July 2014
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Induced menopause can refer to a few ways that ovaries stop working, ending the production of hormones like estrogen and progesterone that help to control a woman’s monthly cycle. Most women will experience regular menopause in their late 40s to early 50s, but sometimes menopause occurs much earlier due to medical need. This is said to be induced and it can occur because of surgery or because of needed medical intervention.

Surgically induced menopause typically occurs when a woman must have her ovaries removed. This could treat ovarian cancer or reduce its risk, or it might be necessary in conjunction with a hysterectomy. This surgery, oophorectomy, immediately results in menopause occurring. Without the ovaries there is no ovulation and no production of essential hormones. To delay menopause, estrogen might be prescribed, but this is not possible in all cases, particularly if the reason for oophorectomy was related to cancer or if the goal of it was to reduce female hormones.

The other form of menopause induction is called medically induced menopause, and this condition is often related to cancer too. Both chemotherapy and radiation treatments, no matter where in the body they occur, may result in the ovaries not working. Some women do remain fertile after these treatments, but many are advised to consider storing ova prior to beginning these treatments, should they want to get pregnant in the future.

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What is different between medically and surgically induced menopause is that the medically induced form doesn’t happen in 100% of women who have cancer treatment. Some women will not go into menopause or may, after what appears to be menopause, begin ovulating again at a later point. This would suggest that pregnancy prevention is still important even if it is likely that ovulation has in fact ended. In contrast, when the ovaries have been surgically removed, there is no way for the body to produce eggs or conceive.

For both types of induced menopause, the symptoms that accompany it are frequently said to be much more drastic at the onset. Menopause of the regular type is gradual, and still uncomfortable enough, but the induced type can cause a variety of serious symptoms right away including hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and mood swings; symptoms may recess sooner. Women who have menopause induced early also need to be more closely monitored from a health prospective. They are greater risks for early cardiac disease, stroke, and early osteoporosis. With monitoring and medication as needed to reduce these risks, most women lead healthy lives.

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