One Year After WHI Reports, Majority Of Women Still Confused And Misinformed About The Safety Of Menopausal Hormone Therapy

Study finds women need help finding the right treatment options


Results of a nationwide online survey released today by the National Women's Health Resource Center (NWHRC) found that almost 70 percent of women are confused about the safety of menopausal hormone therapy. The survey validates the aftermath of more than a year of negative news reports and demonstrates the need for a new era of menopause therapy tailored to each woman's specific needs, according to NWHRC.

"More than a year after the first news reports of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) study questioning the safety of one form of postmenopausal hormone therapy, women are still confused and misinformed about the role of an entire class of drugs for relieving the symptoms of menopause," said Amy Niles, president and CEO of the NWHRC, which conducted the survey.

For women who suffer unmanageable menopausal symptoms abandoning treatment is not an option. "Many women are looking for new methods and clear advice on how to manage the medical consequences of menopause. About 20 percent have even started taking vitamins, over-the-counter products or herbal remedies thinking that they might be safer alternatives, despite their lack of medical research. Women surveyed said they want more information on new options, with more than 70 percent indicating that they would consider an alternative natural hormone preparation if it were approved by the FDA."

More than 50 percent of the respondents agreed that it is important to discuss individual therapy with your healthcare professional. "This finding is important because it indicates that women are getting the message - treating menopausal symptoms is not a "one size fits all" proposition," said Niles.

However, while women understand the importance of individualized therapy, we know that almost 50 percent of the women surveyed received most of their information about hormone therapy from a combination of media sources (TV, radio, newspapers and magazines), with 31 percent having turned to their healthcare professional for advice.

"While this statistic is understandable given the flurry of news over the past year and a half, it helps explain why women still need help in putting the study findings in proper perspective. Furthermore, many women (42 percent of those surveyed) are not familiar with the many hormone therapy options that make individualizing therapy possible, such as patches, creams, vaginal rings and gels," Niles added. Thus it has become increasingly important that we educate women about the multitude of treatment options available today and new options on the horizon, so that they can have informed discussions with their health care professionals.

Other key findings include:

  • Despite negative news reports on studies questioning the safety of one commonly used hormone therapy preparation, less than 25 percent of women on hormone therapy reported that they had discontinued use in the past year.

  • About 10 percent of hormone therapy users stopped taking hormone therapy without talking with their health care professional.

  • More women reported being fearful of breast cancer in connection with using menopausal hormone therapy than heart attack, stroke, blood clots, endometrial cancer and gallstones. Almost one-third (32.94 percent) cited all of those conditions.

  • "Hot flashes" was the menopause-related symptom women reported being most bothered by. More than one-quarter (25.69 percent) said they suffered from all of the following symptoms: night sweats, vaginal dryness, insomnia, anxiety and irritability, mood changes, fluctuations in sexual desire, forgetfulness, headaches and diminished concentration.

The survey was carried out from September 24, to October 15, 2003. A total of 648 respondents completed all 13 questions in the survey. Of those 73.2 percent were between the ages of 0 and 64. Slightly less than one-third of the total (32.52 percent) were between 40 and 49 and about 41 percent were between 50 and 64 years old. The survey was made possible by an unrestricted educational grant from Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

The National Women's Health Resource Center
The National Women's Health Resource Center is the nation's leading independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to educating women of all ages about health and wellness issues. Its programs include numerous publications including the National Women's Health Report, public education campaigns and its Web site, fmxhosting.com/drupal635, a one-stop shop for women's health on the Web.

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To view the online press kit, please click here.

For more information, contact:
Beverly A. Dame, NWHRC
888-406-9472

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