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Hot Take

Menopause gets the research treatment

By Debby Waldman

November 24, 2020 •

The women seeking treatment at the Mature Women’s Health Clinic in the Lois Hole Hospital for Women have one thing in common: debilitating menopause symptoms such as mood disorders, interrupted sleep, hot flashes severe enough that they need to carry a change of clothes, and night sweats so bad they soak their sheets even with windows open in the dead of winter.

Such symptoms interfere with the women’s lives at home and at work, says Tami Shandro, ’80 BMedSc, ’82 MD, a family doctor and member of a multidisciplinary care team that includes a gynecologist, nurses, dieticians, pharmacists, and notably, two research scientists.

“As a team we’re trying to figure out how to improve quality of life for women in that transition,” she says. “One of the joys of working with a research team is that I’m no longer working in a silo.”

One of the projects that researchers Sue Ross and Beate Sydora have worked on with Shandro is a questionnaire for patients to identify the frequency and severity of symptoms. Shandro uses the questionnaire to better understand each woman’s situation and tailor treatment to improve symptoms and quality of life.

Quantifying symptoms helps Shandro and her fellow health-care providers better understand each woman’s situation, provide a more complete approach, and ensure that treatment is effective. For example, estrogen therapy might help hot flashes, but not all symptoms of menopause require it. The tailored approach helps Shandro determine if a patient would be better served with a different treatment, such as antidepressants or talk therapy. And research is behind the approach. The most important thing, Shandro says, “is that her life is changed for the better.”

The team has published its results to share the benefits with other practitioners who are treating women whose symptoms negatively affect their quality of life. And it’s working, says Ross, the Carvazan Chair in Mature Women’s Health Research at the Lois Hole Hospital for Women. “We’ve built a relationship where Tami has the clinician know-how and we have the research and publication know-how.”

In the end, it’s the patients who benefit.

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