What is HRT?
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) first became available in the 1940s and was widely used by the 1960s. It was praised for helping to alleviate the unpleasant symptoms associated with menopause such as hot flushes, night sweats and mood swings.
However, studies in to the use of HRT in the 1990s suggested that it was linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, venous thromboembolism and heart disease. Understandably, this research caused widespread concern and unease over the safety of HRT leaving many women having to struggle on with symptoms of the menopause due to a lack of safe alternatives.
By the turn of the century, the use of HRT had dropped by 50% in comparison to its usage in the 1980s when uptake was at its highest.
Approximately 13 million women in the UK are either peri – or post menopausal
In 2015 NICE guidelines were produced that sought to clarify the safety of HRT and allow women to make an informed decision about using HRT with the guidance of their GP. The guidelines aimed to encourage women to make a decision on whether the severity of their symptoms would outweigh any risks associated with Hormone Replacement Therapy. It was emphasised at this time that in order to be able to make this decision, women needed to be provided with accurate information supported by evidence of those risks.
NICE guidance sought to clarify that the risks associated with HRT, such as increased likelihood of developing venous thromboembolism and breast cancer, reduce drastically once the medication is stopped after symptoms have passed. Therefore short term use of the medication carries minimal risks.
Misinformation on HRT and the risks
Other concerns such as the link between an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes have now been found to be false and unaffected by HRT when compared to the population as a whole and are more likely to be caused by other factors such as obesity, lifestyle choices and genetics.
Following the menopause many women are at risk of developing osteoporosis. This is because the decline in oestrogen production causes a reduction in bone density leading to increased risk of fractures and weakening of the bones. Research has shown that HRT can also significantly reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis by replacing oestrogen in the body. The protection provided by HRT in terms of maintaining normal bone density has also been found to continue many years after stopping HRT.
What are the benefits of HRT?
According to the experts for many women who use HRT in the short term to alleviate the unpleasant symptoms of the menopause, the benefits and improved quality of life that the treatment provides outweigh any risks. This is something that would need to be discussed with a GP to consider the risks versus the benefits of HRT.
Historically there has been a lot of misinformation in both the public and clinical domain and there are support groups now fighting to improve training at the GP level in relation to menopause support and information.
1/3 of women who visited a GP were not made aware of HRT
Research suggests that 10% of menopausal women will resign early from employment due to their symptoms and 50% of women report difficulties in coping in the workplace as a result of their symptoms. Even more concerning is research that suggests many women are being incorrectly diagnosed with and treated for depression by their GP based on the symptoms they are reporting that are actually typical of the menopause.
One quarter of those who visited a GP say the possibility of the symptoms being menopause related is missed
Far too many women are suffering as GP’s receive very little, if any menopause education during their training leaving them ill equipped to recognise and manage a phase of life that will directly affect at least 50% of the population.
If you feel that some of the issues raised above affect you and you would like some legal advice, please do not hesitate to contact Taylor&Emmet LLP on 0114 218 4195 and ask to speak to a member of the clinical negligence team.