The Daisy Network
PO Box 183
Daisy Network Annual Conference 2012
The Daisy Network’s 17th Annual Conference was held at the London headquarters of the National Centre for Voluntary Organisations on Saturday 30th June.
Beth Cartwright, chair of the network, opened proceedings with the hope that participants would find the day interesting, informative and sociable. For those who were unable to attend or for those who did, and would like a recap, here’s an overview of what the day had to offer.
Dr Joan Pitkin, Consultant Gynaecologist, presented us with a medical perspective on the diagnosis and management of premature ovarian failure. According to the World Health Organisation guidelines it’s considered premature for ovarian function to cease in women prior to the age of 40. Recent research by a study at Imperial College, London suggests that 6 per cent, or 1 in every 16 women could go through a premature menopause and the sad fact is that the menopause is irreversible. It’s important to ensure a correct diagnosis is made at as early a stage as possible since periods can stop for some women and then restart without that person going through the menopause. Stress, shock and anorexia are just a few of the reasons why your periods could stop. In making a diagnosis a doctor needs to take into account whether a person has eating disorders, auto-immune problems, or significantly, whether there has been surgery or treatment of chemotherapy for cancer.
For women who go through a natural menopause it remains unclear whether that diagnosis means that the whole body is ageing prematurely, or whether there is accelerated ageing that is specific to the ovaries. There may be abnormalities in the follicle-stimulating hormone or there may be other reasons for ovarian function to cease. Resistant ovarian syndrome, for example, is a condition in which follicles are present but need stimulating for pregnancy. For women, who were planning to have a family prior to diagnosis, a follicle count could show whether the ovaries have any reserve function and steps could be taken to help stimulate those follicles for pregnancy. Often though, it takes an average of 6 to 8 visits to a GP and up to 2 ½ years to get a diagnosis of menopause, by which time that window of opportunity may have gone.
So once diagnosed, how are women treated? Joan Pitkin recommends that all women who go through a premature menopause take HRT since long-term studies show there are profound long-term problems for women who lack sufficient oestrogen in their bodies for the correct time span. Young women, she says, have a higher oestrogen requirement than those who go through a natural menopause at the right time. HRT gives you back what your own body has failed to give you. Oestrogen can be given as a gel, a patch, a tablet or an implant and your lifestyle will help determine which is the best method and least obtrusive for you. However, you cannot take oestrogen in isolation, since it needs to be balanced with the hormone progesterone. The hormone testosterone is also significant. Though generally associated with male health, women need testosterone for improved energy levels, concentration, self-confidence and libido.
Ensuring your body has adequate oestrogen is significant for all women, but if your menopause is before the age of 28 when your body hasn’t yet reached its peak bone mass, the lack of oestrogen can be devastating and significantly increases your chances of having osteoporosis.
There is no catch-all HRT for the young patient, since so many factors need to be taken into account and often a woman will need to try different types of HRT until she finds one that is suitable.
The consequences of non-treatment are shocking: we are twice as likely to have a poor quality of life in health terms, and there is an 80 per cent greater chance of suffering heart disease, a greater risk of aneurism, and an increased incidence of stroke, Parkinson’s disease and alzheimers.