Dr. Sarrel explains if women should make a list of their menopausal symptoms and share it with their doctor.
Now that’s a great question about how a woman should prepare herself before making an initial visit for menopause healthcare. Yes, a woman should know the symptoms, and I advise our patients to actually keep a diary that they can bring to a first visit.
So what happens is, a standard in our program has been for a woman to call to make an appointment and she sends an appointment slip and a list of symptoms, and we say very clearly on that appointment slip, "Please complete this list; there are 18 different symptoms listed, and for each symptom,” let's say hot flushes, “Do they occur or not?" We ask that for every symptom, yes or no, and the second part of the question, "Is it a problem to you, yes or no?" Which means, we are alerting her to what to look for. So not only hot flushes but sleep disturbance and small joint pain and depression and anxiety and decreased sexual desire and vaginal dryness and pain with intercourse and chest pressure and shortness of breath, you see?
By alerting her beforehand, then when she comes in for the first visit, our nurse or myself or one of our residents, first thing we say is "Can I see the questionnaire we sent you?" and she hands it over, and immediately we see exactly what’s been bothering her.
Very often we’ve raise questions, especially that question on short-term memory, "Are you having a problem with short-term memory, yes or no? Is it a problem, yes or no?" And we know then by getting the women to stay aware that all of these are symptoms that could be related to the menopause. Fatigue, another one, sleep disturbance, another one. It’s not an infinite list; it’s less than 20 different items, but a woman comes prepared for the visit, it takes us one minute, one and a half minutes, to zero in on why she is there and whether or not it is related to menopause.
So I feel very strongly that a great deal can be made out of the first visit as long as a woman has been gathering information about herself that she can present.
About Dr. Sarrel, M.D.:
Philip M. Sarrel, M.D., completed his medical education at New York University School of Medicine, his internship at the Mount Sinai Hospital, and his residency at Yale New Haven Hospital. In addition to his many years on the faculty of the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine, Dr. Sarrel has also been a Faculty Scholar in the department of psychiatry at Oxford University, Visiting Senior Lecturer at King’s College Hospital Medical School at the University of London, Visiting Professor in Cardiac Medicine at the National Heart and Lung Institute in London, and Visiting Professor in the Department of Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. He is currently Emeritus Professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and psychiatry at Yale University.