Hormone Replacement Therapy

April 20, 2010

Hormone replacement therapy—or the various medications containing female hormones which can replace those lost through menopause, has long been the standard as a treatment for women who suffer from symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. HRT was also thought to offer long-term benefits such as the prevention of osteoporosis and heart disease.

Health Risk?

But HRT stopped being touted as a wonder drug in 2002, when a study discovered that HRT posed more of a health risk than a benefit for menopausal women. Researchers began finding numerous health risks they said were linked to HRT. Doctors began to feel uncomfortable about prescribing the treatment for their patients and many women stopped using HRT, often times without even speaking to their physicians.

Dirty Acronym

However, although physicians and their patients were ready to sideline HRT for good, not everyone was convinced. A large study called the Women's Health Initiative discovered that HRT wasn't the dirty acronym everyone once thought it was. As a result, on October 18, 2007, which is the date of World Menopause Day, experts chose to right the misperceptions about HRT by issuing the following facts:

*When HRT is begun before the age of 60, a woman's risk for coronary heart disease is lowered

*According to the Women's Health Initiative study, the risk for breast cancer in women who take HRT for 5-7 years can be reduced to 7 cases in 10,000 women who have had their uteruses removed by taking estrogen-only HRT

No Significant Increase!

*The risk for breast cancer in women who take HRT undergoes no significant increase if women take a combination of estrogen and progestogen for fewer than 5 years

*The risk for developing breast cancer increases by 8 in 10,000 women (0.1) for every year when combination HRT is used for 5 years or longer.

*HRT remains the most effective method for relieving moderate or severe menopause symptoms including vaginal dryness, night sweats, and hot flashes.

Prevents Fractures

*HRT helps prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures

*While HRT will often improve a woman's quality of life, there is a small increase in the risks for thrombosis and gallbladder disease which vary according to the woman's health status and age

*While there are some medications that can ease some menopausal symptoms without the necessity of resorting to hormones, none of the alternative or complementary therapies have been proven to work better than treatment with placebos. 

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