Women shunning hormone therapy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 October, 2011, 12:00am


An extremely low percentage of mainland women experiencing the menopause use hormone replacement therapy because of concerns that it can increase the risk of breast cancer, domestic experts say.

'China is among the countries with the lowest percentage of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), only 1 per cent, while in some European and American countries, 20 per cent to 30 per cent of women seek this treatment,' gynaecologist Dr Zhang Shaofen, from the Red House Hospital in Shanghai, wrote in Popular Medicine magazine.

'Many women are frightened of this therapy and think that HRT equals breast cancer, but there is no conclusive evidence to date that women using HRT will definitely get this cancer.'

She wrote that in Thailand, 12 per cent of menopausal women used HRT, but the breast cancer rate there was about the same as that on the mainland. However, the US Food and Drug Administration states that HRT does carry an increased risk of breast cancer for some women.

An estimated 210 million mainland women are post-menopausal. Dr Wang Wenjun, also from the Red House Hospital, said a third suffered from serious syndromes and needed to see a doctor, and only a few could not be helped by HRT.

The menopause occurs in women in their late 40s or early 50s when levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone decrease dramatically. It can cause hot flushes, night sweats, depression, insomnia and osteoporosis.

Dr Sheng Xiujie, of the Third Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University, said some women simply ignored their condition, while some sought therapy for particular symptoms instead of the actual syndrome. Others resorted to traditional Chinese medicine, which is widely believed on the mainland to have few side effects.

Zeng Daming, from Jiangxi, said she suffered badly for three years until 2010. 'I used to be quite outgoing, but I became depressed and suspicious of many things,' Zeng, 57, said. 'I feared that any small disease happening to me would develop into cancer.'

She took hormones for two months but stopped because she was concerned about side effects. Instead she bought supplements which claimed to help women 'pass menopause smoothly'.