Objective: Women increasingly use alternative therapies for menopause symptom relief. We examined 1) current use and perceptions of hormone and alternative therapies for symptom relief among US women, and 2) healthcare provider involvement in women's decision making.
Design: An online survey was completed by a national sample of 781 US women aged 40 to 60 years (72% survey completion rate) drawn from the Knowledge Networks panel in June 2004. Nationally representative estimates of women's use and perceptions of hormone and alternative therapies were made by accounting for sampling weights and survey design.
Results: Hormone therapy was reported among 263 or 37% of this largely symptomatic sample, of whom 59% had stopped primarily due to concern about its potential risks. Herbal products and soy supplements separately were used among 31% and 13% of symptomatic women, of whom 41% and 67% were current users. Forty-four percent of herb users considered these products helpful with symptom relief. Sampled women generally felt ill informed about proper doses and usage of herbal products. Also, 58% of the sampled women expressed at least some concerns about these products, whereas proven safety was the most important factor when women consider such products. Despite considering healthcare providers the most reliable source of information, sampled women expressed low confidence in their ability to give sufficient information about treatment options for menopause symptoms.
Conclusions: Alternative therapies have become increasing popular and are quickly approaching hormone therapy in frequency as therapies for symptom relief among menopause-age women in the United States. However, large gaps exist between patient expectations and provider preparedness to guide patient decision making.