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Am I in menopause?

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As a woman affected by breast cancer, you may have been premenopausal or perimenopausal before your diagnosis. Premenopausal women still get their monthly period, while perimenopausal women have their period every now and then.

Every woman goes through menopause as she ages. But breast cancer treatments — including surgery to remove ovaries, chemotherapy and hormonal therapy — may cause your menstrual periods to stop temporarily or permanently before the average age for natural menopause.

You are in menopause if your menstrual cycle stops permanently and you have no periods for 12 months in a row. The average age of natural menopause is 51.

In most women who reach natural menopause, it is unlikely to get periods again after the menstrual cycle stops for 12 months in a row. However, for women who underwent chemotherapy for breast cancer, there is a higher chance of getting periods back even after menstrual cycles stop for 12 months in a row.

If you had regular periods before chemotherapy, they may return afterward. The younger you are during treatment, the more likely your periods will return.

You are in early menopause if your periods end due to treatment that began when you were still premenopausal. Doctors sometimes call this premature menopause if it occurs at age 40 or younger.

Will your periods return?

Your periods may start again at some point after chemotherapy or hormonal therapy. Research hasn’t yet shown a good way to predict if you will regain your periods or not, although age is a factor.

The younger you start treatment for breast cancer, the more likely your periods will begin again after chemotherapy or hormonal therapy.

  • Young women have more egg follicles, so have more left after treatment
  • Women under 35 have a better chance of seeing their periods return
  • After age 40, treatment-related menopause is more likely to be permanent

If your periods stop during chemotherapy or hormonal therapy, you may still be able to become pregnant.

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Reviewed and updated: August 5, 2019

Reviewed by: H. Irene Su MD

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Living Beyond Breast Cancer is a national nonprofit organization that seeks to create a world that understands there is more than one way to have breast cancer. To fulfill its mission of providing trusted information and a community of support to those impacted by the disease, Living Beyond Breast Cancer offers on-demand emotional, practical, and evidence-based content. For over 30 years, the organization has remained committed to creating a culture of acceptance — where sharing the diversity of the lived experience of breast cancer fosters self-advocacy and hope. For more information, learn more about our programs and services.

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