New NICE guidance aims to encourage doctors and nurses to discuss prescriptions of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for women experiencing the menopause.
The first ever guidance for the menopause stated that HRT could be prescribed to over one million women who are experiencing hot flushes, night sweats, insomnia and mood swings.
Previous concerns about offering HRT have been due to evidence of increased risks of heart disease and breast cancer with HRT found by the Million Women Study in 2002.
‘For the last decade, some GPs have been worried about prescribing HRT, and women worried about taking it,’ said Imogen Shaw, a GP with an interest in gynaecology and one of the guideline developers.
‘I hope that this new NICE guideline will empower women to talk to their GP or practice nurse about menopause and provide them with information on the range of options that could help. For health professionals, the guideline should boost their confidence in prescribing HRT, having fully discussed the woman’s individual circumstances with her,’
The guideline covers determining if menopause has started, the drug and non-drug treatment options that help with physical and psychological symptoms, and it provides clarity on the benefits and risks of taking HRT.
The guideline also looks at the experiences of women under 40 undergoing the menopause and women who have menopause triggered as a result of treatment for hormone-dependent cancer or gynaecological conditions.
Christine Carson, programme director at NICE’s Centre for Clinical Practice said: ‘This is the first NICE guideline which covers the diagnosis and management of menopause, which women will experience at some stage during their lives. Menopause symptoms may severely affect a woman’s health and quality of life. Women don’t always get the help they need from their GP, practice nurse or hospital specialist to manage their symptoms but this guideline recommends effective treatments which can help.’
Around 80% of women undergoing the menopause experience some symptoms, which typically continue for around four years after the last period. But for around 10% of women, symptoms can last for up to 12 years.