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First evidence-based international medical guideline for PCOS

Photo: World-first hormonal condition guideline
An Australian research centre has spent two years creating the first evidence-based international medical guideline for polycystic ovary syndrome.

A hormonal condition that affects about one-in-10 Australian women will be easier for doctors to diagnose and manage, following the creation of the world's first evidence-based guideline for doing so.

An Australian research centre has led the production of the guideline for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which has been published in the Medical Journal of Australia on Monday.

The condition is caused by a hormone imbalance in the brain and ovaries, which causes the ovaries to make extra amounts of the male hormone testosterone.
This often results in irregular periods, impaired fertility, excess hair growth, acne and weight gain.

Between eight and 13 per cent of women of a reproductive age experience the condition, with the prevalence at 21 per cent among indigenous women.

Despite how common the condition is, it can be hard for women to be diagnosed in a timely fashion, according to the National Health and Medical Research Council Centre for Research Excellence in PCOS.

There are often significant delays as multiple doctors get involved, the centre's research team, led by Professor Helena Teede, has found.

"This team's research has clearly shown that access to timely, accurate diagnosis and information provision needs significant improvement," the researchers told the Medical Journal of Australia.

Among diagnostic changes the guideline has recommended is doing away with needing an ultrasound of the ovaries for women already found to have extra testosterone and dysfunctional ovulation.

Adolescents found to have some features of the condition, but without a clear diagnosis, should be regarded as "at risk" and receive a follow-up assessment, the guideline also says.

Letrozole - a substance used in the treatment of breast cancer - is also advised as the first-line treatment for women experiencing infertility.

The guideline has been paired with an international translation program, with resources for health professionals and women.

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