If youre going through a tough time during menopause and are considering taking Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), a study just released will probably have you and your doctor reconsidering the treatment. The new study, which appears in the Journal of The American Medical Association, concludes that women who take hormone therapy after menopause and develop breast cancer are more likely to have cancerous lymph nodes -- a sign of more advanced disease. They are also more likely to die from the disease than women who have never taken hormones.
This is the first report from the Womens Health Initiative (WHI) which includes death rates from breast cancer related to hormone use. A previous study of 13,000 women showed a correlation between HRT, specifically Pempro (a combination of estrogen and progesterone) and strokes, heart disease, and increased breast tissue density. Mammograms are more difficult to read when the breast tissue is dense. The latest WHI study followed the women from its original 2002 trial. The study found 2.6 women out of every 10,000 women who took the drug sold by Wyeth/Pfizer developed breast cancer each year compared to 1.3 per 10,000 of those on placebo.
The breast cancer among those who took hormones was also more likely to be invasive. Mortality from all causes including breast cancer was 5.3 per year for every 10,000 women who took the drugs compared to 3.4 per 10,000 per year for those who did not.
Although the increased risks were relatively small and are not fully understood, according to an article reported in The New York Times, it may be possible that hormones may feed the growth of some breast cancers or the blood vessels that tumors need to grow and spread.Some doctors suggest that women who still want HRT treatment should take the lowest possible dose to ease their symptoms. But there are alternatives. Woman can try a more natural route to ease hot flashes and night sweats, the most uncomfortable and more common menopausal symptoms. Here are several:HOT FLASHES DURING THE DAY Dress in layers, so you can peel off one layer after another as you get warmer. Don't wear wool or synthetics and be wary of silk. Dress in cotton or linen. Avoid turtlenecks and stick to open-neck shirts. Keep ice water at hand that you can sip to cool down your insides. Pass on hot beverages. That cup of hot coffee, tea or chocolate may invite a hot flash for some. Substitute soft drinks for alcohol. Wine and liquor bring on the heat. What.no chocolate and coffee? Both have been associated with heating you up. It might be the caffeine. Pass on jalapenos!!! And other spicy foods which can be a hot flash trigger. Also avoid cayenne, chili peppers, wasabi, and hot mustard. Eat smaller more frequent meals rather than large meals. Over-eating may trigger hot flashes. Whenever and wherever possible, lower the thermostat. (You'll save money and help the environment, too). Or maybe you prefer one of those little hand-held battery or solar-operated fans or the foldable kind you flutter in your face. You can find perfectly adequate paper fans for about a dollar. Use your freezer liberally. A number of women say opening the freezer at home (or in the supermarket) and sticking their head in brings on relief. Breathe deeply. It can shorten hot flashes and make them milder. Start slow, deep breaths as soon as you feel a flash coming on. Take as deep a breath as you can, and hold it a moment before letting it out slowly. Expanding your rib cage can trigger the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms you down and may help to regulate temperature. Arrive at meetings early so that you can get the coolest seat.NIGHT SWEATS Wear cotton pajamas and night gowns or sleep in your birthday suit. Use cotton sheets only. No synthetics. Get a bigger bed if you and your partner are on different heat planets but you still want to stay in close orbit. Take a cool shower before bed.See what others have to say about this story or leave a comment of your own.Robin Westen writes on health issues for national magazines