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Side Effects of Radiation

nw2
Posts: 2
Joined: Nov 2003

I just had surgery for rectal cancer, which was found to be stage III. I've been told I need to have both radiation and chemotherapy but haven't met the radiologist or oncologist yet. I'm really worried about side-effects, especially involving the reproductive system (I'm female)--I opted not to have my ovaries taken out prophylactically, but now I hear I might go into premature menopause anyway due to radiation. I'd appreciate hearing other people's experiences.--nw2

StacyGleaso's picture
StacyGleaso
Posts: 1246
Joined: Mar 2003

Hi nw2...

I was 33 when I was diagnosed 2 years ago. I had radiation & chemo prior to surgery to reduce the size of the tumor. I didn't have any radiation after the surgery. As a result, menopause. I have 3 kids, so having more was never on my mind. And we have really cut down on the heating bill (live in Indiana) as hot flashes really do their job. I don't know though if menopause is inevitable with radiation. But from others who I have spoken to, it appears it may be. Discuss it with your physician, maybe there is more that can be done to prevent it in your situation.

Good luck on your journey, let me know if I can answer any other questions you may have,

Stacy

KrisS
Posts: 232
Joined: Apr 2003

I had radiation/ 5-FU prior to surgery for rectal ca at 47. I went into menopause about 6-8 wks later, although my radiation oncologist said some people begin cycling again after a year or so.
I had another surgery 5 mth later for progression of disease in which I had ovaries and uterus removed, but that was what my rad onc told me.

Here is hopng that things go well.

Kris

Lisa Rose's picture
Lisa Rose
Posts: 589
Joined: Mar 2003

Hi nw2

Welcome to the club...
I was 40 years old when I had my surgery for rectal cancer 20 months ago . My radiation (28 treatments) took place after my surgery . Like Stacy & Kris I am also in my menopause years . However after six months of every symptom in the book I went on Hormone Replacement Therapy . I am not always sure if that was the right thing to do but it has helped me , and it's not for long term .

All The Best,
Lisa

spongebob's picture
spongebob
Posts: 2600
Joined: Apr 2003

Sorry to butt in on a (girlz) conversation, but if having children is a concern, is harvesting your eggs and undergoing invitro fertilization an option in your case? I know that in my case I had an option to have my "side of the equation" harvested and frozen for the possibility of invitro fertilization... Please excuse me for butting in, but it was just a thought.

- SB

andreae
Posts: 238
Joined: Sep 2003

Hi nw2,

In January, I was diagnosed with advanced stage 3 rectal cancer. I had to undergo pre-operative chemo and twenty-eight sessions of radiation. Unfortunately, the side effects included menopause and infertility. I'm 21 without kids, so, to be honest, I was disappointed. However, I told the doctors to do whatever necessary to beat the cancer and I don't regret the aggressive therapy for a second. I did speak to a fertility specialist and she told me that some couples will try for years to have a baby Then they finally adopt and they are ultimately sorry they hadn't adopted sooner because it is such a wonderful and beautiful experience! Not only can one adopt, but I have also been told that I could carry a child (I still have my uterus) and I would simply need an egg donor, so I have retained my ability to give birth, which is really the experience I wanted. Who wants my shitty, predisposed to cancer genes anyways? Also, if they have already resected the bulk of the tumour, maybe you have time to look into procedures that could spare your eggs. When I was diagnosed, the tumour was so advanced they wanted me to start the radiation immediately, so I didn't have time or the energy to undergo any fertility procedures. Anyways, it was all worth it and I feel so much better than I did in January that I'm grateful for the treatment. Going through premature menopause was tough, and I will probably wrestle with some issues for the rest of my life. But I don't care... at least now I have an extended life to look forward too! And, on the up side, I'm going to Vegas on all the pad/tampon money I have saved... And, NO MORE PMS!

spongebob's picture
spongebob
Posts: 2600
Joined: Apr 2003

andreae -

What a GREAT attitude! You GO, girl!! Vegas is calling - put $5 on 17 Black for me...

2bhealed's picture
2bhealed
Posts: 2084
Joined: Dec 2001

Would you call it "blood" money then?

heehee

em

nw2
Posts: 2
Joined: Nov 2003

Thanks for sharing your experiences. I met with the radiologist yesterday and he confirmed that menopause is more or less guaranteed. At this point I'm just trying to work on my attitude--I already have two kids (9-year-old boy and 5-year-old girl) and don't want more; I'm just apprehensive about having to combat side effects of chemo, radiation AND instant menopause simultaneously. I'd love to know if anyone has found anything in addition to hormone replacement therapy that helps cope with menopause symptoms.--nw2

andreae
Posts: 238
Joined: Sep 2003

Hi nw2,

I know there are a lot of alternatives to HRT but I also think there is a lot of unfair and unfounded apprehension about it. Some say that it increases your risk for certain cancers but the literature and studies proving that are limited to non-existent. Also, I have read that those who started menstruating at a later age are at a higher risk for cc. I think it has something to do with the estrogen being protective. Anyways, HRT is the route I went because I figured 21 is way too young to be menopausal and that can't be natural or healthy. The doctors have said that HRT poses no threat (of course, who ever knows with doctors) and I want to reap the benefits of hormones (preventing bone loss, etc.). But, to be honest, I was lucky and barely even noticed the consequences of menopause (I only just started HRT and last ovulated in January, so I was menopausal for about 10 mths). Again, menopause is an individual thing, and some go through it without any symptoms - maybe you'll get lucky. There are also some great homeopathic remedies like St-John's Wart to deal with hot flashes, ect. Ultimately, get all the info. you can about your diff. alternatives, talk to your doctors and do whatever you feel is right for you and, more importantly, whatever remedies make you the most comfortable.

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