As Menopause Awareness Month approaches (though I already think I hear more than I wish on the subject), there will be more drum-banging about the helpful properties of HRT.
As someone who takes the now old-fashioned view of menopause that it’s not a very riveting subject for discussion and, like other life stages, is something we must pass through, I have been watching the way HRT is proposed as an almost catch-all solution.
I took HRT for some years until when I was diagnosed with estrogen (ER) fed breast cancer I was told to stop it immediately.
Frankly, I never found it the panacea advocated by some, ramping up one’s libido, banishing forgetfulness, dry skin and hot flushes. But, on balance, it was a help with some menopausal symptoms.
Recently there has been a high profile movement to get more GPs to offer more HRT to more patients. So I was a little concerned when I was looking back at a letter from my oncologist which had the heading: HRT associated, left-sided ER positive.
ALEXANDRA SHULMAN: I took HRT for some years until when I was diagnosed with estrogen (ER) fed breast cancer I was told to stop it immediately
I completely understood that if you have a cancer fed by estrogen (which mine and many others are), it makes sense not to continue putting it into your body via HRT (which includes the hormone).
However, I had never been made aware that there was a clear link between the medication and breast cancer. In fact, I had listened to many lectures where the connection was downplayed.
The other day I went to the same oncologist for a regular check-up and quizzed him over why this link is so often pooh-poohed.
He was as fervent as a cautious medic can be, saying that HRT is a known risk in breast cancer. While there is no proof that it causes a breast cancer, there is clear evidence that it will promote certain cancers.
He explained that the issue is very political and the risk isn’t highlighted clearly enough.
For years, people were too wary about HRT. Now, they’ve flipped entirely the other way. My oncolgist’s wise words in reference to the amount of HRT being prescribed now are: ‘In a few years, we will have to pay that cheque.’
I’m no medical expert and HRT is a wonderful support to many women but, like all medicine, the risk should be made very clear.
Would I have taken it had I known it might promote a breast cancer in me? Quite possibly – but I would have preferred to have that connection made obvious to me rather than have it portrayed as an infinitesimal risk.
Why reality TV needs to get real
One of the great HRT advocates is Davina McCall, who launched her brainchild My Mum, Your Dad last week on ITV.
Billed as a middle-aged Love Island with characters holed up in a country house and hoping to find love, they are surreptitiously and entertainingly scrutinised by their kids. I found myself surprisingly hooked but also infuriated by the usual double standards.
While Roger the Silver Fox has a head of grey hair and the other guys come from central casting, the women are dolled up like superannuated escorts. Aside from the delightful Caroline, on the show with daughter Karli, they don’t have a strand of grey hair, have completely unlined faces and unreal brows, and totter in ludicrous high heels and thigh-high short suits. I love the idea but so wish that reality TV could get a bit more real.
ALEXANDRA SHULMAN: I love the idea but so wish that reality TV could get a bit more real
Don’t let red tape foil Martha’s Rule
Health Secretary Steve Barclay has made an excellent decision by moving forward with Martha’s Rule, making it easier for people to get a second opinion if they believe medical staff aren’t taking their concerns seriously.
This follows the death from sepsis of Martha Mills, 13, whose parents believe their worries were not acted upon. Anyone who has been concerned that a hospital didn’t see what they had been seeing should be reassured by this measure. Let’s hope it doesn’t get lost in the NHS’s bureaucratic stasis that can take hold before anything gets done.
Now the shoplifters feel hard done by
The rise in shoplifting is big news. It’s no doubt exacerbated by cost of living difficulties but also by the fact that so many shops have given up the battle.
Driving in Kensington the other evening, I heard a huge kerfuffle and saw a security guard give chase to a woman clutching a plastic Waitrose bag, who was legging it from a shopping centre that incidentally doesn’t house a Waitrose.
It wasn’t clear if the shoplifter (as I assumed she was) would escape with her haul, being somewhat more lithe and nippier than the hefty security bloke, but eventually she was caught.
I expected she would be dragged back to the store and possibly detained while police arrived.
But no – all that happened was that the security guard took the bag from her and then stomped back to the shop while she went on her way, looking rather hard done by.
ALEXANDRA SHULMAN: The rise in shoplifting is big news. It’s no doubt exacerbated by cost of living difficulties
Hey pesto! Will my sauce pass muster?
We are off for a late summer holiday and will be hosting a house full of friends. My packing is off the chart with all the bits and bobs I think we might need.
But I am stumped by a question that wakes me at night. One guest, I was told by his wife, always likes a sauce with his meal.
We’re not talking a dollop of Loyd Grossman here but one of the delicious little concoctions she runs up for him.
Now I don’t do sauces. I don’t even do gravy. But since I’ve been alerted to this information, it’s hard to just ignore it. Should I, as hostess, really make an effort in the sauce stakes? Or let him suffer?
I think we need a sit-down, Angela…
Last week I wrote a fangirl item paying tribute to Angela Rayner.
This week, I may have to amend my view slightly, since appealing as I find her, she can’t get away with the nonsense-speak she contributed to a debate on house-building and pollution: ‘We stand ready to sit down with government.’
This post first appeared on Daily mail