London: Nine out of ten UK women are unhappy with the way they are treated by GPs when they seek treatment for symptoms of the menopause. Many feel they are being prescribed anti-depressants instead of HRT by doctors who are too busy to listen, according to a survey by ElixirNews.com
A majority of women 90%, in a nationwide survey of 2,000 women, aged between 45 and 55, who sought advice for symptoms of the menopause said that their GP spent 10 minutes or less making a diagnosis. And 60% said that doctors were either indifferent(40%) or unsympathetic (20%).
Twenty-five percent of those interviewed are currently receiving HRT treatment on the NHS, but only 10% had received follow-up blood-tests to see how their HRT was reacting to their body chemistry.
Seven of 10 of all those who responded said they would go to a private doctor where more bespoke treatments are available, if they could afford it.
90% of the total interviewed said they were worried about taking HRT following recent scare stories linking HRT and cancer and of those not on HRT 20% said they had stopped taking it because of their fears. One in three women who had visited their GP to discuss HRT said they had been prescribed anti-depressants by GPs. Nine out of ten women said they were unaware of the alternatives to the synthetic HRT available on the NHS, such as pills, patches and gels made from bio-identical oestrogens, given in lower doses and derived from plant products.
Dr John Moran, an expert in the menopause treatment in Londons Wimpole Street said the results revealed that most GPs were adopting a one size fits all approach to the menopause.
Dr Moran said: Most of the women I see come to me because they are not happy with the HRT they have been prescribed. Most of the time it is not the GPs fault, it is simply that they do not have enough time to sit and listen to the patient they may only have five or ten minutes whereas it takes an hour to ask the detailed questions required for proper treatment.
Without listening you cannot possibly understand the patients concerns and anxieties at this stressful time in their life. Some women feel particularly vulnerable as their children may have left home and they might be suffering from empty-nest syndrome and their parents may be unwell. The menopause marks the start of the time when women are at an increased risk of heart attack and osteoporosis. The symptoms of the menopause can also be very distressing. Hot flushes, for example, interrupt sleep, which in turn causes tiredness.
The danger of this one size fits all approach is that some women, particularly those in the peri-menopause may be getting too much oestrogen from conventional HRT which may make some of their symptoms worse, such as fluid retention and headaches, even though the hot flushes may be relieved. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends the lowest possible doses of the HRT hormones to be taken for the shortest possible time in the light of recent research. Patients may also may be prescribed anti-depressants which is not the best treatment for the menopause which is mainly due to plummeting levels of oestrogen. Its not surprising with all the symptoms of the menopause that a women becomes depressed and this depression is often relieved by the correct dosage of bio-identical oestrogens and natural progesterone and giving the patient time to talk about their concerns.
Recent studies have shown that the longer a women is exposed to oestrogens the higher the risk of developing breast cancer but only by a very small percentage. One of the alternatives to conventional HRT are bio-identical oestrogens which are given in lower doses and tailor made to suit each individual woman and balanced by the correct dose of nature progesterone and supplemented when necessary with testosterone. There are also other plant-based products such as phytooestrogens that are useful in the peri-menopause particularly in women with more frequent hot flushes. Unfortunately these are not available on the NHS.