Estrogen. It’s a hormone that I never really paid attention to until I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer (MBC). Because my subtype is hormone positive, that means my subtype is fueled by hormones. The hormones that fuel my cancer are estrogen and progesterone. So, as soon as possible after I began treatment, my doctor took steps to limit the amount of estrogen in my body. This happened with chemo, the hormone suppressing medication I took during chemo, the aromatase inhibitors I still take, and the radical hysterectomy I had in September of 2017. Radical just means they took everything out — cervix, ovaries, tubes, uterus — all the lady parts.
The result … well, estrogen is related to a lot of organs and bodily functions.
Here’s how Adiba talks about how her sex life and her vagina has been affected …
The lack of estrogen means the blood flow to the vagina is affected and the tissue becomes extremely thin and fragile. Additionally, the lack of estrogen affects the body’s ability to produce lubrication as well. The result is a lot of pain with traditional penetration and requires not only adjustments but also medication/lubrication/assistance in other ways.
The lack of estrogen leads to menopause, the stage of life usually affecting women over 50. For those of us in our 30s and 40s who are dealing with the extremely sudden cessation of estrogen, it’s a shock to the system, literally, and the affects linger. As I write, it’s been over 3 years since my radical hysterectomy and I still struggle with hot flashes. Certainly, the monthly Faslodex shots don’t help, and I find myself doing all manner of things to deal with it. Add in all the dryness and my whole body is affected.
In addition to the physical symptoms, there are hormonal fluctuations that often leave us a little on the volatile side. Well, more than just a little, it’s pretty bad. Managing the physical and hormonal symptoms can often feel extremely overwhelming and it puts pressure on our support system. Especially when physical intimacy becomes more difficult.
So that’s the take away? If you have a person in your life who is experiencing menopause from any source, please be patient. We are struggling to adjust to the new levels of a lot of things in our bodies and that can leave us vulnerable, embarrassed, and often feeling out of control of our emotions. It’s not a fun place to be and an extra dollop of understanding would be welcome.
And now you know more about the affects of menopause and the lack of estrogen that most breast cancer patients experience.