Olivia Munn’s Cancer Treatment Led to ‘Medically Induced Menopause’—Here’s What That Means

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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It’s been about a month since Olivia Munn shared her breast cancer diagnosis with the world. In a People interview published Wednesday, the actor, 43, detailed the emotional toll of undergoing four surgeries in just 10 months.

One was a double mastectomy, during which doctors discovered a “tangerine-sized” section of an early form of cancer, ductal carcinoma in situ, in her right breast. Munn said that to lower the risk of cancer coming back, she also started hormone suppression therapy, which involves using medications to lower estrogen levels that can help certain breast cancer cells grow, according to the American Cancer Society. This treatment, Munn said, has put her into medically induced menopause: “I’m constantly thinking it’s hot, my hair is thinning, and I’m tired a lot.”

Usually, menopause (the phase marking the end of a person’s period) happens in your 40s and 50s. However, a lot of cancer treatments can quickly lower your estrogen and progesterone levels and cause what’s called induced menopause. To get specific, surgically removing one or both ovaries (which produce estrogen and progesterone) can trigger the early onset of symptoms like hot flashes and fatigue, per the North American Menopause Society. Similarly, chemotherapy drugs, radiation therapy, and hormone suppression therapy, as Munn mentioned, can also disrupt your body’s natural hormone production. The good news is that, in some cases, induced menopause can be reversible if you discontinue medication and your hormone levels stabilize, but it ultimately varies from person to person.

Reflecting on her recovery and treatment, Munn said, “I feel grateful that I was given the opportunity to fight,” adding that her son, Malcolm, helps her keep perspective while she’s experiencing menopause symptoms. “If my body changes, I’m still his mom,” she said. “If I have hot flashes, I’m still his mom. If I lose my hair, I’m still his mom. That’s really what matters the most to me. I get to be here for him.”

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