A new study to be presented at the annual meeting of the North American Menopause Society held September 25 to 29 in Chicago shows that menopausal women discuss their vaginal health very rarely during their medical appointments. Medical personnel themselves seem even less at ease with the subject.
The research concerned 1,500 menopausal women. Among them, nearly half (45%) reported experiencing vaginal itching, dryness, or abnormal odor. These symptoms are typical of the genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM). However, only 39% dared to speak to their doctor about it.
The hesitation in broaching the subject is even more striking among medical personnel. The researchers found that the patient was more likely to broach the subject than the doctor (59% compared to 22%). A small number of the women surveyed (16%) reported that discussions of that type were initiated by both sides.
Among the women who discussed the subject with their doctor, 83% were satisfied or very satisfied with the results of those discussions, which led to useful recommendations. On the other hand, 18% did not have that chance and regretted it.
"Since the discussions that did occur led to helpful interventions, this suggests a role for greater clinician-initiated screening for genitourinary syndrome of menopause," said Dr. Amanda Clark, lead author of the study and an affiliate investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon.
"With so many options now available, such as over-the-counter lubricants and moisturizers as well as low-dose vaginal hormonal products containing estrogen or DHEA, there is no reason for women to continue to suffer in silence," added Dr. Stephanie Faubion, medical director of The North American Menopause Society.