Women are suffering needlessly due to baseless HRT fears: Experts

A woman having a hot flash using a fan to cool off.

The Australian Menopause Society (AMS) has come out fighting for hormone replacement therapy, saying not enough Australian women are seeking help for their menopause symptoms.

The AMS has blamed a flawed 2002 study linking menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) and breast cancer for causing women to endure the symptoms of menopause unnecessarily and says it is time for GPs to revisit their knowledge of treatments.

In a media statement, the organisation said unnecessary fear and ignorance of MHT meant women didn’t seek it out to help with hot flushes, vaginal dryness, insomnia, and mood changes.  

A US Women’s Health Initiative study, published in 2002, raised fears of links between MHT and breast cancer. The media story spread like wildfire and pharmaceutical companies stopped distributing MHT and GPs stopped prescribing it. But the risks have since been largely debunked. 

“A woman has a greater risk of developing breast cancer if she drinks more than two glasses of wine every day than if she uses short-term HRT,” clinical associate professor Sheila O’Neill told the AMS conference in Sydney this month, The Australian reported. . “The benefits of individualised hormonal treatment far outweigh the risks.”

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In 2105, a study of 400,000 menopausal Australian women showed most were suffering hot flushes but only one in eight were receiving treatment, and most were being treated with antidepressants, not hormone treat­ments.  The Australian Menopause Society suggested insteadthat low-dose, short-term use of hormone ­replacement therapy, which can be taken as a patch, gel or tablet, is the best-proven treatment for hot flushes and other symptoms like insomnia, mood changes, and vaginal ­dryness.

The AMS acknowledged, however, that it would take time for GPs to catch up with the latest ­research and for the general public to regain confidence in MHT.

The its conference the AMS presented doctors with evidence on the efficacy and safety of treatments, aided by a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The 18­-year follow-up of the original scare-mongering US study showed similar rates of deaths from all causes, ­including breast cancer and heart disease, for women who took MHT and a non-treated group of women.

Menopause occurs in the late 40s, 50s and even 60s, when estrogen declines in the female body.  The decline of the hormone causes a wide range of symptoms, as well as increasing the risk of developing osteoporosis and heart disease.

What menopausal symptoms did you experience? How did you managed them? Have you tried MHT?