A new study suggests the benefit of increasing the volume and intensity of physical exercise to fight the virulent symptoms of menopause resulting from cancer treatments.

Menopause is the time in a woman's life when the ovaries stop secreting hormones (estrogen and progesterone) and forming an egg each month. It is said that menopause is truly "installed" when the rules have been absent for a year. In most women, it appears naturally between the ages of 45 and 55, but some cancer treatments can trigger it earlier: this is called treatment-induced menopause. This is because women treated for cancer can go through menopause quite suddenly with symptoms, such as hot flashes, magnified compared to naturally occurring menopause.

A study by the University of Queensland claims that physical activity may reduce the severity of symptoms of early menopause in women who have received cancer treatment. Published in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), it indicates that symptoms of menopause can, for example, occur following radiation therapy, surgical removal of the ovaries or chemotherapy. Procedures that, in premenopausal or perimenopausal women, can trigger ovarian failure and lead to sudden and sometimes irreversible menopause with significant and frequent symptoms.

Improvement of somatic symptoms

  “Women often report these treatment-induced menopause symptoms as a distressing side effect that lasts long after returning to work and their social roles,” the researchers explain. The study of 350 women treated for early stage breast, ovarian and blood cancers consisted of analyzing the association between physical activity and symptoms of menopause. In addition, the researchers assessed whether an intervention targeting lifestyle (sport, nutrition, sleep, stress management, smoking cessation, reduced alcohol consumption) could have a beneficial impact on physical activity levels and symptoms of menopause. 

The results showed a clear association between physical activity and relief of menopausal symptoms: the latter were less severe in women with average to high levels of physical activity compared to women with low levels of physical activity. . “Women who remained physically active reported fewer symptoms associated with menopause. The main benefits were a reduction in depressive symptoms and somatic symptoms, such as nausea, dizziness, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, as well as improved sleep patterns and sexual function, ”the scientific team notes.

Also recommended against cancer recurrence

  While this is not the first study to examine the association of physical activity with symptoms of menopause, it is the first to look specifically at the volume and intensity of physical activity. adequate. Based on these results, the researchers suggest that oncology department programs dedicated to supporting post-treatment patients take greater account of the importance of physical activity. "Individualized physical training that improves cardiovascular and physical fitness could be beneficial for women, in relieving these symptoms of menopause, and we hope to study this more closely," the researchers say.  

They conclude on the fact that it has also already been shown that regularly practicing moderate to vigorous physical activity also reduces the risk of other chronic patients, but also of cancer recurrence. “This study highlights some of the many known benefits of exercise for women with and without cancer. Although physical activity did not reduce hot flashes, the results are consistent with previous studies: it may help alleviate other symptoms such as mood and sleep disturbances, ”says Dr. Stephanie Faubion, NAMS Medical Director.