Kirsty Wark has spoken out on the subject of the menopause and HRT and says women are still "shockingly ill-informed" about what it actually is and how to deal with it.
Now aged 62, Kirsty Wark has said she started on HRT after having a hysterectomy and her ovaries removed. But after a scare in 2002 when HRT and breast cancer were linked, she decided to come off medication and have a ‘hard’ menopause.
"I came off HRT and actually my symptoms have not really gone away in the past 10 years," said Wark.
“Suddenly I had no oestrogen at all. The most disconcerting side effects were disturbed sleep and night sweats, waking up literally wrung out.
“I learnt to be thankful for the nights when I had a good sleep, and kept – and still keep – a notebook beside my bed to write things down so I don't fret about forgetting. The tumultuous nights have persisted, though to a lesser extent.”
Menopause expert on HRT
Wark is now on a low dose of HRT after finding out that Dr Heather Curry, the chairman of the British Menopause Society, was using Hormone Replacement and that the new thinking on HRT is that the cancer risks are small and are usually outweighed by the benefits.
She said: “Discovering Heather was on HRT was an absolute eye-opener for me: she says the revised guidance is clear, that HRT only increases the risk of breast cancer if you are already predisposed. I am now back on a small dose of HRT, and I'd encourage others who dropped the drug as a result of that study to seek medical advice as to whether they should be taking it.”
Doctors now believe the data in the 2002 study was flawed, but HRT never shook off the association with an elevated risk of breast cancer.
Oestrogen HRT 'safe'
Consultant Gynaecologist Professor John Studd of the London PMS & Menopause Centre, an internationally recognised expert in HRT said: “Hormone therapy should be recognised as being very safe and beneficial particularly in women under the age of 60 who may need this therapy for symptoms relief, improvement of depression, energy and libido as well as protection of the skeleton.”
He added: “There is no evidence that such therapy in this age group is harmful and it is particularly beneficial in those women that have no uterus and do not need the addition of progestogen.”
As well as easing menopausal symptoms, HRT has a protective effect on bones and can prevent osteoporosis which leads to fractures and kyphosis (the so called ‘Dowager’s Hump).
Professor David Reid, one of the UK’s foremost experts on osteoporosis and a consultant rheumatologist said: “There is good evidence that oestrogen is protective of the bones as well as the intervertebral discs, which are crucial for cushioning the vertebral bones and preventing crush fractures.”
He added: “There has been much debate regarding the safety of HRT, but the evidence is clear that if started around the time of the menopause, it can ensure good long term bone health as well as having many other positive effects such as treating hot flushes, sweats, low mood, low energy and vaginal dryness.
"HRT can be taken in many different forms such as gels, patches and tablets. The exact type is tailored to each woman’s needs to provide a completely integrated treatment.”
The time of a woman’s life when her ovaries stop releasing an egg (ovum) on a monthly cycle, and her periods ceaseFull medical glossary