Improve care for women in surgical menopause
Women in surgical menopause require a standardised and updated protocols across the board to improve their quality of life.
Natural menopause marks the end of a woman's reproductive life. It's a gradual process over time but for many women, menopause happens overnight following the removal (or damage) of their ovaries for a variety of reasons (cysts/tumours, cancer prevention, ovarian torsion, severe endometriosis, etc.). These women face the additional challenges of surgical menopause. The wide array of menopause symptoms affecting joint, muscle, mood, skin, sleep, hair, digestion, vagina, memory, libido, etc. are often more severe and long lasting, especially for women under 45. Hormonal deficiency also comes with widely documented long term health risks for this population of women: osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, dementia/parkinsonism, etc.
Thanks to recurrent efforts of women’s health advocates, we witnessed over the last few years an increased visibility of menopause in the public sphere that created more awareness and broke outdated taboos. In 2022, widespread knowledge on menopause is still necessary in the general population and the medical profession to improve women’s health. Although things are becoming more public, we still have a long way to go. Surgical menopause benefits from this movement but also needs awareness of its own specificities.
Currently, the lack of awareness of the implications of surgical menopause puts the burden of education on the women themselves, and they are often unaware of this until after the fact. They then have to research and advocate to improve their best health outcomes. Outdated knowledge around treatment, lack of communication between medical providers, misconception about the risks of hormone deficiency on health and absence of follow-up care are not uncommon. All of which can be improved with standardised and updated knowledge on surgical menopause.
Recovering from a major surgery in itself is challenging, but dealing with acute menopause symptoms misunderstood by many healthcare professionals aggravates the experience, puts women’s health at higher risks and can seriously impair their quality of life and their capacity to fully take part in society.
To ensure best health outcomes, we need to work on:
- Full disclosure of surgical menopause’s implications so patients can make an informed decision before undergoing surgery and during their recovery
- Training of more menopause specialists
- Introduction of standardised protocols and widespread awareness throughout the healthcare system where all healthcare providers, particularly GPs and gynaecologists, can clearly differentiate between the care for natural menopause and surgical menopause. These would include individual care plans (best practice informed with focus on maintaining quality of life and prevention of future illnesses):
- Regular long-term monitoring and support (better communication between different providers)
- Holistic approach (automatic referrals to menopause specialist, pelvic floor physiotherapist, nutritionist, counsellors, etc.).
- Increase the access to broader treatment options (expand funding for hormone replacement therapy like Estrogel, Sandrena, AndroFeme) and fund more research
Why the contribution is important
Women cannot give informed consent to surgery without knowing the full range of consequences it may have on their quality of life and the ongoing care it will require. Unfortunately, many women are not receiving full disclosure beforehand on what to expect, in part because the surgeons themselves don't engage in follow-up and/or have no awareness of the daily impact surgical menopause has on the quality of life of their patients. We need to right that wrong and provide women with adequate information beforehand.
The younger population of women, plunged in surgical menopause before the age of 45, are at greater risk of severe long lasting symptoms and health problems. In their prime years professionally, they suddenly have to deal with severe symptoms that may greatly limit their capacity to resume their pre-surgery activities. Surgical menopause also comes with a financial burden (reduce incomes and increased costs due to limited funded treatments).
Many women are left to scramble with their GPs on how to better care for themselves and unfortunately their GPs also have variable/limited knowledge of the implications of surgical menopause.
We can remediate this situation by introducing mandatory training on surgical menopause and widespread documentation to support patients and healthcare providers. Women in surgical menopause require standardised and updated protocols across the board to improve their quality of life.
A better care for women means better recovery outcomes and less physical, emotional and financial struggles for them and their whānau. There are solutions for many menopause symptoms and disease prevention; however, healthcare professionals need to be well positioned to inform, treat and support their patients accordingly with relevant knowledge.
Emilie Joyal c/o Surgical Menopause NZ
by EmJ on December 15, 2022 at 01:09PM