Monday, July 5, 1999 Published at 22:11 GMT 23:11 UK
Women match men in HRT ignorance
HRT protects women against heart disease and osteoporosis
The first nationwide survey on public awareness of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) found that women know almost as little as men about its health benefits.
The "Mapping the Menopause" survey, conducted by pollsters NOP, revealed that only 18% of UK women are taking HRT.
Only one in 10 of all those questioned could say that HRT could alleviate symptoms like hot flushes, and and only 7% knew that it may protect against the risk of heart disease.
And only 10% of men and women were aware the therapy could be beneficial to health, although more women knew it relieved menopausal symptoms.
Overall, in the UK, 17% of women aged 40-70 use HRT for between five and 10 years.
Studies have shown that the risk of a hip fracture caused by brittle bones is reduced by between 6% and 11% for every year HRT is taken.
Dr Malcolm Whitehead, a consultant gynaecologist and Director of the Amarant Trust, the women's health charity, said: "It is surprising that, in many aspects, women's knowledge is little better than that of men."
The survey also showed that GPs were not often the first source of information to menopausal women about HRT - most relied on magazines or even friends.
Little progress had been made from similar surveys taken six years ago, he said.
"Only 2% of women knew then about the protection HRT gives from heart disease - but it's still in single figures."
He said the future lay in making good quality information available to women outside GP surgeries.
"We have got to do things at the Sainsbury's checkout," he said.
Many older, post-menopausal women give up on HRT because it causes bleeding, but Dr Whitehead said that new, low-dose HRT meant this side-effect was virtually the thing of the past.
He said: "Many doctors are unwilling to prescribe HRT to some women because they think that half of them will be back within a month demanding to be taken off it.
"That needn't be the case any more."