Early Menopause and Medical Negligence
A woman is in menopause when she has not had a menstrual period for more than 12 months. Associated symptoms such as hot flushes, may begin during a period called the perimenopause.
There are several known causes of early menopause which may cause a woman to begin menopause before the age of 40. Your GP should be able to make a diagnosis of early menopause based on your symptoms, your family history and blood tests to check your hormone levels.
Medical negligence can occur where there has been a delay or misdiagnosis of menopause, perimenopause or early menopause, the failure to treat menopause correctly or the failure to diagnose a condition that may result in a hysterectomy and premature menopause.
The Hatch Brenner Medical Negligence team has experience in acting for women who have suffered negative outcomes as a result of menopause related medical negligence.
In her latest blog post, Trainee Solicitor Bengi Karakus has focused on early menopause and outlines the common causes of early menopause below:
Causes of Early Menopause
Your age at menopause onset may be inherited. As such, knowing the history within your family of when the menopause began for them could be indicative of when you are likely to start. It is not always down to genes and there are other influencing factors.
As smoking has anti-oestrogen effects, this may contribute to early menopause. Studies show that a woman who smokes may start menopause one to two years earlier than a woman who does not smoke.
Body Mass Index (BMI) can also be a factor in early menopause. As oestrogen is stored in fat tissue, women who have a low BMI have fewer oestrogen stores which can be depleted sooner.
Turner Syndrome involves being born with an incomplete chromosome. Women with Turner Syndrome have ovaries that do not function properly which may cause them to enter into menopause prematurely.
Where the immune system starts attacking body tissues, this may be a cause for early menopause.
Radiotherapy and Chemotherapy can cause premature ovarian failure which may be permanent or temporary.
Your risk of having an early menopause as a result of cancer treatments will depend on various factors such as:
- Your age
- Girls who have not yet reached puberty can tolerate stronger cancer treatment than older women
- The type of cancer treatment given
- Different types of chemotherapy affect the ovaries differently
- Where on your body any radiotherapy is focused
- Your risk of developing premature menopause is higher if you have radiotherapy treatment around your brain or pelvis
Surgically removing both ovaries as part of a hysterectomy will also bring on early menopause. As your ovaries produce oestrogen, removal of your ovaries will cause you to go into menopause immediately. Where your ovaries were not removed during a hysterectomy, you may still experience hot flushes and other menopausal symptoms temporarily following surgery.
The NICE Guidelines recommend that a woman’s ovaries should only be removed if there is a significant risk of associated disease, such as ovarian cancer.
If a hysterectomy leaves one or both of your ovaries intact, there is a chance that you will experience the menopause within five years of having the operation. Although your hormone levels decrease after the menopause, your ovaries continue producing testosterone for up to 20 years. Your ovaries continue to produce small amounts of the hormone oestrogen after the menopause and it is the lack of oestrogen that causes menopausal symptoms.
Menopausal Symptoms after a Hysterectomy include:
- Hot flushes
- Vaginal dryness
- Sleep problems
- Night sweats
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
You may be offered HRT to help with menopausal symptoms that occur after a hysterectomy. This replaces some of the hormones your ovaries used to produce. There are different doses and brands of HRT which will be suited to different women as the amount of hormones produced by a woman can vary greatly.
HRT is not recommended for everyone in particular not to those who have had a hormone-dependent type of breast cancer or liver disease.
If you are able to have HRT and both of your ovaries have been removed, it is important to continue the treatment until you reach the average age for menopause, 51 years of age.
Permanent Early Menopause
Permanent early menopause can affect your ability to have children naturally which can be distressing for women of all ages. Getting support in terms of family planning is important for women going through the menopause early. You may still be able to have children by using IVF, donated eggs, your own stored eggs, surrogacy and adoption.
We can help
If you feel you may be entitled to claim compensation due to medical negligence where your GP or other treating specialist has failed to diagnose your menopause in time or failed to inform you of possible treatment options, we can help. Contact our Medical Negligence Lawyers including former Morgan Jones Pett Solicitor Sara Westwood via 01603 660 811 or email firstname.lastname@example.org