Hot flashes, uncomfortable dryness, insomnia -- we all know the myriad symptoms associated with menopause. But a surprising number of women aren’t sure how to treat them. “Menopause Map,” an interactive tool launched by The Endocrine Society and The Hormone Health Network, is trying to change that.
“Menopause is a portal to the second half of life,” said Dr. Cynthia Stuenkel, spokeswoman for The Endocrine Society. “It’s a good time to take stock of your life [and] your risk factors.”
The map -- which is “the first of its kind” -- offers a centralized location for guidance and information. An interactive quiz asks a series of questions about your menopause symptoms and risk factors (such as “Do you or anyone in your family have a history of blood clots?” “Have you had a hysterectomy?”). Based on your answers, the map leads you to a page that suggests questions for you to ask your doctor, tailored to your menopause symptoms and health history.
It’s a tool that attempts to address an education gap seen in women dealing with menopause. According to a study conducted by the two groups, 72 percent of study participants have not been treated for their symptoms. Of those polled in the study, 45 percent found said they thought current available information was confusing and 41 percent weren’t sure what to trust. At the end of the map is a list of vetted links to national health organizations such as the National Institution of Aging for further research.
“There [has been] so much confusion in the last 10 years about the right thing to do that some folks may have just tuned out the discussion,” Stuenkel said.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that the success of menopause treatments varies from individual to individual. There are also ever-changing reports on what may treat those fitful nights and uncomfortable days. While last year a study found that taking soy supplements didn’t treat hot flashes, an overall look at a number of studies this year found that “women who used soy isoflavone extracts had a 21 percent greater reduction in hot flashes compared with women given a placebo,” according to Reuters. Antidepressants’ effectiveness on menopause symptoms are also unclear.
Stuenkel said the map will offer clarity with its well vetted resources. “This is a great interactive tool to engage women to really think through their symptoms,” she said. “Women can’t practice medicine on themselves with a tool like this, but hopefully the Menopause Map will get the conversation going.”
The map offers suggestions on prescriptions, hormonal therapy, lifestyle changes (i.e. losing weight, dressing in layers) options, including some of the tips found in a previous Huffington Post article on natural remedies for menopause symptoms. Although hormone replacement therapy has fallen out of favor, in part because of a 2002 Women’s Health Initiative study that found due to an increased risk of breast cancer and other health issues, according to CNN reports at the time, Menopause Map’s home page explains that the risks of hormone therapy are on a case-by-case basis. In some instances, it may be the only option for menopause symptom sufferers.
Menopause Map results can be used as a “springboard” for a conversation with your doctor, Stuenkel said. Users can print up their results and share it with their health care provider.
“Sometimes [women] can feel intimidated sitting across that desk,” she said. “Hopefully having gone through the exercise of the Menopause Map, they will feel more confident.”The Doctors discuss menopause symptoms and their risks with guest Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, Pfizer's chief medical officer.