October 18th is World Menopause Day and it got me wondering, “What does that mean and what is the purpose? Is the purpose to start conversations in communities around the world to de-stigmatize and drive awareness? If so, who’s behind this global day of recognition and what are the messages and Calls to Action we should sharing? Before I started blogging, I’d never even heard of it. Do women around world observe this day? If so, how? Do they take to the streets or gather quietly in their homes or local coffee shops to commiserate about their symptoms and share tips and tricks for mastering menopause madness?
Well, it turns out that there’s an International Menopause Society (IMS) that sanctions this day and it has a clear purpose, “to raise awareness on the menopause and support options for improving health and wellbeing.” The 2019 campaign theme is “Testosterone for Women at Midlife” and is supported by a White Paper that examines (and I’m paraphrasing) the risks and benefits of testosterone therapy in menopausal women. Developed “by global consensus between the participating organizations,” (which are largely medical research bodies from around the world) the paper is only about six pages. So, despite the less than inspired title, and in my earnest attempt to better understand the issue, I read it.
While I only understood about every tenth word (or so), my basic takeaways are,
1) testosterone therapy has shown limited benefit in response to a very specific set of menopausal symptoms for some women; 2) current testosterone therapies are formulated for men, not women; 3) there’s not enough research to determine the full spectrum of the benefits or risks of testosterone therapy to menopausal women – whether pre, during, or post; and 4) more research is needed.
Even though I didn’t necessarily know any more about the issue after reading what was obviously, and intently written for the global medical community, I did know that I could and should ask my doctor about it on my next visit. And not because I’m personally experiencing any of the symptoms for which testosterone therapy might be described. Really, it’s more about starting a deliberate discussion with someone (i.e., a medical professional) who might lend their voice, time, knowledge or expertise, to the call for more research on what could potentially be a life altering therapy – whether good or bad – for the millions of women around the world suffering through menopause.
To help us with this, the IMS website provides basic campaign materials, including a patient brochure that includes a list of questions you can ask your doctor if you have symptoms that might benefit from testosterone therapy. There’s also a poster for health and medical offices and if you’re into medical speak, you can also download the White Paper. All of these pieces are available in multiple languages, although the range of languages, and why some languages are available and not others is a bit unclear. For example, the position paper is available in Arabic, French and German, however, the brochure and poster are not; but they are available in Croatian, Czech and Hungarian… Why Chinese, but not Taiwanese or Japanese?
Anyway, despite this seemingly random series of translations, the effort and actionable guidance are appreciated. If you’d like to support the cause, IMS encourages people to participate by:
- printing and sharing their campaign materials,
- organizing a community engagement event, and/or
- engaging in social media using #WorldMenopauseDay