Presenting the award, NBCC President Fran Visco commended the Network for taking on the battle to change medical practice and demand answers about hormones’ health effects, both positive and negative.
Until about 10 years ago, it was routine practice to prescribe hormone therapy (HT) to women undergoing the menopause transition. This was justified by claims that HT would keep us young and healthy, despite the lack of evidence supporting those claims — and despite evidence suggesting that HT might increase the risk of breast cancer.
The Network knew that these health claims had not been proven by science and we didn’t stop saying so, even when the response was rolled eyes and smug looks. “Against all odds, challenging accepted wisdom, the National Women’s Health Network boldly insisted on the collection of systematic evidence,” Fran said.
Our decade-long campaign ultimately succeeded because women wouldn’t back down! As Fran noted, “By asking important questions, insisting on finding the answers, and helping disseminate the information, the National Women’s Health Network played an important role in changing medical and patient behavior leading to the first significant reduction in breast cancer incidence in the United States.” We insisted that the Federal government be accountable to women and invest in research to answer important health questions – and so the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) was established (see cover story).
In July 2002, the WHI’s groundbreaking findings were released; they showed that HT caused serious health problems for women, including breast cancer. The Network made sure this information got to women so they could finally make informed decisions about whether or not to use these drugs during the menopause transition. We changed the lives of 160,000 women who were not diagnosed with breast cancer in the last 10 years because they decided not to take HT.
I’m proud of what we accomplished together, and, I’m looking forward to celebrating when the WHI’s anniversary comes around this summer. Watch the Network’s website (www.nwhn.org) for more information about the upcoming anniversary!