Recently, I had lunch with a bunch of friends who were in the midst of or about to go through menopause. The conversation eventually turned to hormone therapy. Some were for using it while others were concerned about the potential consequences of using this therapy. All I could contribute was, “Talk to your doctor.”
But having that conversation can be hard. That’s why The Hormone Health Network, which is supported by The Endocrine Society, has developed a Menopause Map to help guide women their through individual journey through this life transition. The network believes the map can be used as a resource to aid discussions between women and their health care provider about issues such as menopausal hormone therapy.
“The Menopause Map is meant for women who are going through menopause or having irregular periods, or had their last period within the last three years,” the website states. “Use it as a guide as you and your health care provider decide the best way to treat your menopausal symptoms.”
This resource can help steer those conversations to help women get through menopause. Unfortunately, many of those conversations have been inconsistent. For instance, a recent survey of 424 internal medicine, family practice and OB/GYN physicians commissioned by The Endocrine Society found that 90 percent of the physicians were very comfortable talking to their patients about menopause. However, 71 percent reported their patients were equally as comfortable in having this conversation.
Gender may be part of the problem. The survey found that only 38 percent of male physicians reported that it was very common for their patients to talk to them about a lack of sexual desire due to menopause. Compare that to 55 percent of female physicians who responded that their patients would talk to them about this area. And this response isn’t because women aren’t having issues related to sexual desire. An April 2012 survey of menopausal women found that more than one in four women who were between the ages of 45 and 60 said they were currently experiencing moderate to severe lack of sexual desire as a result of menopause.
The survey also identified that the primary barrier to women’s use of hormone therapy is their fear about the risks related to this type of therapy and their unwillingness to discuss this therapy as an option (88 percent). The survey also found that 57 percent of the OB/GYN physicians who responded said that women are confused about hormone therapy. Fifty-seven percent of these physicians said that women are confused about hormone therapy and that only 11 percent of women between the ages of 45 to 60 have a favorable view of this therapy.
Interestingly, most of the doctors (71 percent) who were surveyed said they have a positive impression of hormone therapy. However, 73 percent reported prescribing hormone therapy at lower rates than they did a decade ago.
Furthermore, 61 percent of the physicians believed that the scientific community should come to a consensus on the effectiveness and risks of treatment options related to hormone replacement therapy. This consensus would be helpful in helping the doctors treat women as they go through menopause.