Menopause Symptoms Often Bring Women Back Into Preventative Care

Fear of treatment risks, however, can divert women to alternative therapies

DAYTON, Ohio (December 18, 2013) – Menopause symptoms – including the classic hot flashes – are often a big reason why a woman returns to her gynecologist’s office during midlife, even if she failed to get her yearly checkup during the previous years, according the Scott Bembry, MD, at Ob/Gyn of Greene County in Springboro.

In fact, about 20 percent of women who come to see Dr. Bembry have not had their annual exam, which includes a pap smear and pelvic checks, for several years at least.

“Menopause creates a gateway for women to return back into the health care system and to receive the vital screenings that are important during this season of their lives,” Dr. Bembry, a Premier Health Specialists’ physician, said. “Unfortunately, one of the things that can happen is that women forgo seeing their physician in pursuit of finding something that they perceive to be more natural or safer because of the way it has been marketed to the public.” 

The perception of menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) suffered after the National Institutes of Health launched the Women’s Health Initiative in 1991 to address the major causes of death in women who were postmenopausal. The study, which focused on cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoporosis, raised concerns that MHT played a role in increasing a women’s risk of developing breast cancer.

Not long after the study was released, alternative therapies began to emerge, offering women more natural ways to deal with their menopausal symptoms. Some women – fearful of what conventional treatment could mean to their future health and ill-informed about their alternatives – have chosen to forgo a visit to their physician and instead, look into alternative means, Dr. Bembry said.

This choice can cause two problems. First it gives women the misconception that an alternative therapy is safer and healthier. Second, it denies them the chance to receive screenings for colon cancer, thyroid disease, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease; all issues that could increase after a woman turns 50.

“It is interesting that patients can become so fixated on wanting something that is natural and alternative that they can completely miss out on the basic screenings that are so vital,” Dr. Bembry said.

During menopause, a woman’s body produces less of the hormone estrogen, which may lead to hot flashes, vaginal dryness and thin bones. Most MHT drugs contain estrogen or a combination of estrogen and another hormone, a progestin. MHT remains a choice for women who suffer from menopausal symptoms, but certainly is not something that is for every woman. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the North American Menopausal Society’s recommendation on hormone therapy is simple: If you are symptomatic and it is interfering with the quality of your life then don’t suffer. If it isn’t then don’t treat it.

Dr. Bembry advises women to understand the facts before turning to alternative methods of therapy and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has even published educational information highlighting the myths and facts about this type of therapy, which is often referred to as “bio-identical” hormones.

The biggest misconception is that “bio-identical” hormones are safer and more effective than FDA-approved MHT drugs. However, the FDA is not aware of any credible scientific evidence to support these claims. The FDA also warns women to be careful of claims that “bio-identical” hormones may prevent or cure heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and breast cancer. Compounded hormones have not been shown to prevent or cure any of these diseases and, in fact, like FDA-approved MHT drugs, may increase a woman’s risk of heart disease, breast cancer or dementia.

Dr. Bembry encourages women to talk to their physician at the onset of menopause symptoms and to use it as an opportunity to get up-to-date on their overall health. Often, once menopause symptoms are under control, other health issues – such as sleep apnea that a woman once attributed to menopause – may actually point to a different issue.  To learn more about Dr. Bembry or menopause, visit Ob/Gyn of Greene County  

Contact Us

Discover more about Premier Health and join us in building healthier communities in Southwest Ohio. Learn more about working at Premier Health, becoming a volunteer, and making a gift to support our mission.