Myth busting

Time to discover information you can rely upon.

In this article we cover some of the most common myths around perimenopause, menopause, HRT, Breast Cancer and more. 

Read on to find the truth about these statements - simply click on the Myth that you'd like to know more about!

False.

Hot flushes are just one of approximately 34 common symptoms of menopause. Figures vary, but roughly 40% of women experience hot flushes* - so they’re common but not every woman gets them. Our founder Katie Taylor is one of many women who has never experienced hot flushes.

Therefore, it’s still worth seeing a doctor about your symptoms even if you don’t experience the ‘classic symptoms’ that you might have heard mentioned in menopause.

False.

Many perimenopausal symptoms can begin long before your periods stop. In fact, the end of your periods (12 months without a period) is the signal that you have gone through menopause. However, perimenopause symptoms can last anything up to four to 10 years before that.

False.

While the average age of menopause is around 51 years old in both the UK and US, it can happen earlier too. If you are under the age of 45 and experiencing symptoms that affect you it is still worth visiting your GP as a blood test can help confirm if your symptoms are linked to perimenopause and menopause. 

Menopause can happen much earlier in life too. Around 1% of women under 40 years old will go through the menopause. Occasionally, teenage girls will go through menopause too. 

What’s more, menopause can happen at many other ages and stages of life due to other causes:

  • Surgical menopause can trigger menopause in a woman at the age that the surgery happens
  • Chemotherapy can trigger menopause
  • A trans man may still go through perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms either as a result of natural ageing or due to surgery as part of gender reassignment.

False.

After the age of 45 years old, your GP should be able to confirm you are perimenopausal or menopausal using your symptoms alone. Under the age of 45 it is useful to have a blood test to measure your follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels which can indicate if you are perimenopausal.

False. 

Testosterone is very important to women and is another hormone (alongside oestrogen and progesterone) that declines as we age. It’s really important for our energy levels and libido (sexual desire). Unfortunately, it isn’t yet licensed in the UK.

The General Medical Council in the UK state that doctors can however prescribe products that are not licensed,if there is sufficient evidence to support its use and it is safe.

The NICE Guidance on menopause states that testosterone can be safely considered for those women who need it.

Testosterone can be prescribed on the NHS, if the prescriber is familiar with it and is willing to prescribe it ‘off licence’. Some doctors prefer not to take this decision themselves and instead refer to a specialist for advice. Most private menopause specialists will and are able to prescribe it. Find out more.

It depends.

Antidepressants should not be given as first-line treatment for menopause. Unfortunately menopause is commonly misdiagnosed as depression - with up to 66% of women offered antidepressants instead of HRT. Of course, some women may experience mental health illness that coincides with menopause and therefore need antidepressants during this time. However, antidepressants should not be prescribed specifically to treat menopause initially because the underlying issue of low mood in menopause is caused by hormone levels. 

Antidepressants can be added when you are stable on HRT and if your mood is still low. Antidepressants also have an important role in women who can’t take HRT or don’t wish to take HRT. There is evidence that antidepressants can be very helpful with vasomotor symptoms of menopause (such as hot flushes).

False.

For the vast majority of women HRT is safe to take and the benefits outweigh any risks. We have explored this topic in depth in our Treatment Options resource area - where you can review the facts and research for yourself before making a decision.

False.

Many women who have survived breast cancer take HRT, after having an informed joint discussion with their dr, because they have decided the benefits of HRT outweigh their individual risks. We have interviewed some of these women such as Dr Tina Peers and TV broadcaster Kirsty Lang. Leading oncologist Dr Avrum Bluming has also studied the risks and benefits of HRT specifically for women who have had breast cancer and you can watch his conclusions in these video highlights. 

Remember statistics can be deceiving too. Let’s take an example. Suppose you are told your risk level is double that of the average woman. That sounds so scary doesn’t it?

That’s why it’s always best to ask for the ‘absolute numbers’ - i.e if there were 1000 women, the average risk level might be 2 in 1,000. So if you are told that your risk is double that - that’s 4 in 1,000. While this is clearly a higher risk, it’s a lot less scary sounding than what you might have heard without those exact numbers. 

Always ask for the benefits too of your medication so that you can make an informed decision about whether the benefits will outweigh the risks. 

False.

Lifestyle factors - good levels of exercise, healthy nutrition (and possibly supplements), good sleep and reduced stress - are all very important during menopause. They can all help reduce menopausal and perimenopausal symptoms. For many women this may be sufficient if their menopausal symptoms are mild.

However, HRT is the only treatment option that can replace the lost hormones that our body no longer produces as we age. Therefore HRT is the only treatment option that can provide the protection against osteoporosis, heart disease and Alzheimers that become risk factors once our protective hormone levels drop.

Do you have any more myths you'd like us to include in our myth buster section? Let us know!

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