"Half the world's population will experience menopause as some point in their lives, yet there isn't a commonly used diagnostic tool and that's creating confusion amongst women and doctors," says Susan Davis. (Credit: Miguelox/Flickr)

Menopause toolkit can sort out ‘tricky’ diagnosis

A new, free toolkit has the potential to improve how physicians help women over 40 manage menopause.

“The Practitioner Toolkit for Managing the Menopause,” which includes a diagnostic tool as well as a compendium of approved hormone therapies, appears in the journal Climacteric.

Led by Professor Susan Davis, the research team from the School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine at Monash University combined existing research on menopause, diagnostic algorithms, and extensive clinical experience to develop the diagnostic tool.

The tool also works through a patient’s medical history and risk factors to arrive at the best treatment solution.

‘Widespread confusion’

Davis says the toolkit fills the void of clear guidelines on menopause diagnosis and management, equipping doctors with the fundamentals to care for any woman who walks through the door.

“There are many detailed guidelines available on menopause but the reality is that most GPs don’t have the time to work through a 40 page report when they only have 5 or 10 minutes with a patient,” says Davis.

“Based on feedback from patients and doctors we realized there’s widespread confusion, not only in how to determine when menopause starts but also prescribing appropriate treatment to help with side effects.

With many recent medical graduates receiving little training in this area, we realized there was a clear need for simple and practical guidelines,” she says.

A ‘tricky’ diagnosis

Menopause, also known as “the change of life,” marks the end of the monthly cycle of menstruation and reproductive years in a woman’s life. Most women reach menopause between the ages of 45 and 55.

Davis says that due to hormonal changes, menopausal symptoms, which include hot flushes, anxiety and depression, and joint pain, vary widely from none at all to debilitating, making a straightforward diagnosis difficult.

“Half the world’s population will experience menopause as some point in their lives, yet there isn’t a commonly used diagnostic tool and that’s creating confusion amongst women and doctors,” she says.

“Many people think the menopause is the same for every woman but the reality is quite different. Every woman has her own individual experience of menopause and that sometimes makes it tricky to diagnose,” she adds.

The free resource includes a flow chart of standardized questions for doctors to ask in order to assess women who are potentially experiencing menopause. The kit also flags safety concerns, provides a list of all hormone therapies approved by regulators in different countries, and lists non-hormonal therapies that have evidence to support their use.

Davis says the toolkit would also help inform GPs and patients on the benefits and risks of menopausal treatment.

“Hormone therapy is commonly prescribed to women, but its success varies according to symptom type and severity, personal circumstances, and medical background.

“This toolkit has the potential to change that because it’s designed to work as just as well for a 41-year-old woman in Madras as it will for the 48-year-old in Manhattan,” says Davis.

The International Menopause Society (IMS) is promoting the use of the toolkit throughout the world, stating that it is the first to present structured practical advice.

IMS President Rod Baber says the toolkit builds on formal guidelines on menopause.

“This will ensure that each individual woman is well informed about what happens to her as she ages, about what options for treatment and monitoring are available and lastly what menopausal hormone therapy options are,” says Baber.

The Practitioner Toolkit for the Managing the Menopause is available to download for free from Climacteric and the algorithm is available here.

Source: Monash University

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