Diane’s symptoms of perimenopause became much worse when she had a full hysterectomy and oophorectomy. Armed with all the latest information and evidence-based facts about menopause and hormone replacement therapy (HRT), she was delighted when her GP agreed to prescribe estrogen and testosterone.
“I’m now aged 58, but back in my late 40s I had many typical symptoms of the perimenopause: hot flushes, missed periods, foggy brain (though I didn’t realise this was a symptom at the time), tiredness and mood swings. None of these symptoms were enough on their own to make me visit a doctor, but I didn’t think it was reasonable to suffer when there might be options to help.
I talked to friends who were going through the menopause, and we shared our thoughts. Several friends had decided to take HRT, and I was keen to find out if this might help me. My own mother had been on HRT for a number of years, and spoke positively about it helping her symptoms.
I made an appointment with my female GP, and I was prescribed HRT – with the caveat that I couldn’t stay on it for too long because of the risks associated with prolonged use. At the time there was some bad press about HRT being linked to an increased risk of breast cancer so, as recommended by my GP, I came off HRT when I was about 50. The hot flushes and foggy brain returned, but I endured them as I thought I had no alternative. I was working full-time and I can still recall the horror of experiencing hot flushes in meetings: I went bright red and spent most of the time opening and closing windows, much to the annoyance of everyone else in the room.
When I was 54, I had a little spot of bleeding on several occasions. I went to see my GP, and she sent me for a scan. This revealed a tumour in my womb, and I had to have a full hysterectomy and oophorectomy (removal of womb, cervix, ovaries and fallopian tubes). This was when I really started to notice a difference in my symptoms: I felt like I’d gone into full blown menopause. The hot flushes were mild, but other symptoms came to the fore: I felt low and had a foggy brain, dry vagina, and dry skin.
Once again, it was through talking to close friends with similar symptoms that I decided to visit my new female GP. By then, I had also come across Dr Louise Newson, and had read all of her information and equipped myself with so much new knowledge. The key piece of information was the importance of estrogen for all women of all ages – and the fact that the link to breast cancer many years previously was incorrect. As a result, I went to my appointment feeling confident that I would leave the surgery with a prescription for HRT.
Much to my delight the female GP was an active listener, and although she knew little about the latest research and information on HRT, she checked my medical history, including a letter and approval from the consultant who had carried out my cancer surgery, and prescribed estrogen. I requested – and received – patches, and I have also requested, and been prescribed, testosterone in gel format.
I firmly believe that learning about HRT should be part of everyone’s education. I’ve seen the positive impact it has had on both myself and some close female friends, and I think that it should be the first line of treatment, when appropriate, for all women who are experiencing symptoms related to perimenopause and menopause. This would save a lot of pain and heartache, and cost the NHS a lot less, in both the short and long term, than prescribing the antidepressants and other drugs that women are often offered when they visit the GP to discuss their symptoms.”