For the last decade Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) has been a controversial topic. Women have become reluctant to ask for help from their GPs, who are often reluctant to prescribe, leading to many menopausal women suffering in silence.
Last week, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) released its first guidelines on menopause and offers clarity on the risks and benefits of HRT.
HRT is a treatment for menopausal symptoms including:
The therapy works by boosting the body with more female sex hormones and is a proven method to relieve menopausal symptoms. Research indicates that about 80% of women who experience menopause suffer some symptoms.
Although not all women need support, it is hoped for those that do, the new guidelines will allow women to be given the option to consider HRT. The controversy began following a large number of medical studies that looked into HRT and the associated health problems in the early noughties. NICE consider the negative publicity and the fall in prescriptions as a result of the 2002-2003 studies.
The NHS recommends that HRT should gradually be stopped after 2-5 years. Most experts agree that if used correctly as a short term treatment, the benefits outweigh the risks; often making a significant difference to the wellbeing of an individual and their quality of life.
The British Menopause Society are in support of the recent guidelines and say they have been ‘long awaited’. As NICE advises that risks should be acknowledged and weighed up with the benefits, GPs need to be more prepared to discuss HRT as a possible menopause treatment.
The president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists describe the new guidelines as a ‘milestone’. It is hoped that the new advice will empower women to talk to their GPS about the menopause and consider HRT as a treatment option.
With conflicting publicity, it is important that there is good quality information available to help patients make the right decision.