EMW15 (Tracey)

Name: Tracey
Age at interview: 44
Diagnosis: Medically-induced early menopause (following risk-reducing bilateral oophorectomy and complete hysterectomy)
Age at diagnosis: 44

Background: Tracey works full-time in the health sector, lives on her own in a regional area, and is from an Australian background.

About Tracey: After a family member’s diagnosis of bowel cancer at an early age, Tracey underwent genetic testing in her late 30s and was found to have Lynch Syndrome. After several years of monitoring, at age 44 she decided to have a total hysterectomy and bilateral oophorectomy to prevent ovarian and uterine cancer. Tracey began taking Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) immediately after her surgery, and her only menopausal symptom has been interrupted sleep.

More about Tracey: When Tracey was in her late 30s, a family member was diagnosed with bowel cancer at an early age. As another relative had died from ovarian cancer in her mid-50s, Tracey decided to have genetic testing. Her results indicated she had Lynch Syndrome, which meant she faced an increased risk of developing a range of cancers, including bowel, ovarian and uterine cancer.

Tracey then began attending a gynae-oncology clinic for an annual ultrasound to check for ovarian cancer, and a combined gastroscopy and colonoscopy for other cancers. Although she was advised that a complete hysterectomy and bilateral oophorectomy would prevent ovarian and uterine cancer, Tracey did not feel ‘ready’ to have this operation until she was 44. Fortunately, pathology tests afterwards showed no signs of cancer having developed in the intervening years, which Tracey described being ‘very relieved’ about.

Aside from fears about the surgery itself, Tracey said she had been concerned about the symptoms of early menopause she might experience, including ‘feeling old,’ having low energy, weight gain, and ‘mood swings.’ She was dissatisfied with the information her gynae-oncologist provided on early menopause, as said he did not talk to her about the symptoms she could expect and ways to deal with them. This led Tracey to do her own reading online and to volunteer for a research project on cancer risk-reducing surgery.

Based on information she found on a women’s health website, Tracey insisted on beginning Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) while still in hospital after her operation. She has found HRT helpful and has not had many menopausal symptoms, besides ‘interrupted sleep.’ Tracey also has regular bone density scans and takes calcium and vitamin D supplements for bone health. Her ‘biggest issue’ after the surgery has been leg pain and ‘altered sensation,’ for which she sees a physiotherapist.

Tracey described her family and friends as ‘very supportive’ during her surgery and four-week recovery period, especially since she was working casually at the time and had no sick leave. Although she is now pleased that she decided to have a hysterectomy and oophorectomy, Tracey said with better information about early menopause, she may have had the surgery sooner. She urged health practitioners to provide women contemplating surgical early menopause with more information, especially on available options for dealing with symptoms. Tracey encouraged women with similar experiences to seek information about early menopause through reputable sources, such as GPs, women’s health clinics, and hospital websites.