menopause toolkit
July 9, 2014

Researchers Develop Diagnostic Toolkit For Menopause

Rebekah Eliason for - Your Universe Online

Researchers from Monash University have designed a toolkit to aid GPs in the diagnosis of menopause. This new technique, thought to be the first of its kind, is intended to be used with women 40 years of age and older to manage menopausal conditions.

Researchers of this study, led by Professor Susan Davis, developed a diagnostic toolkit using a combination of existing research on menopause, diagnostic algorithms and extensive clinical experience. This tool was designed for use in a GP surgery, but it can also work using a patient’s medical history and risk factors to discover the best treatment plan.

Professor Davis explained that this new toolkit provides clear guidelines to diagnose and manage menopause so that doctors know the fundamentals in order to care for any woman.

"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," Professor Davis said in a recent statement.

"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 said.

Commonly referred to as “the change in life,” menopause signifies the end of a woman’s monthly cycle of menstruation and reproductive years. Most women will reach menopause between the ages of 45 and 55.

Since menopausal symptoms vary widely from none to extremely debilitating, it is difficult to make a straightforward diagnosis. Hormonal changes during this time can cause symptoms such as hot flashes, anxiety, depression and joint pain.

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"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," Professor Davis said. "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 added.

The new free resource created by the team includes a flow chart of standardized questions that enables doctors to assess women who are potentially experiencing menopause. Additionally, the diagnostic tool flags safety concerns, provides a list of all hormone therapies proved by regulators in different countries and lists non-hormonal therapies that have evidence to support their use.

"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," said Professor Davis.

Use of the toolkit is promoted by the International Menopause Society (IMS) and the society states that it is the first to present structured practical advice. Rod Baber, president of the IMS said 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," said Baber.

General Practitioner Dr. Jane Elliott said the toolkit was clear and accessible, making it ideal to use for GP consultations.

"The flow-chart should be on the computer desk top of all GP's. This will go a long way towards helping busy GP's feel that managing menopause is no longer in the 'too hard basket' and women will benefit as a result," Dr. Elliot said.

Leading Endocrinologist and President of the Australasian Menopause Society, Dr. Anna Fenton welcomed the introduction of the toolkit, recommending widespread use amongst health practitioners.

"In an area fraught with myths and misinformation, this toolkit provides concise and accurate information. The key messages are clear and the advice is practical and evidence-based. Many women are confused and uncertain about how best to deal with the menopause. Doctors can also face uncertainty in how best to treat and support patients with menopausal symptoms. This toolkit has the potential to change that," Dr. Fenton said.

This study was recently published in the journal Climacteric.