Hormone-Replacement Therapy: Benefits and Risks
Are you considering hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to combat those menopause symptoms? Before you make this big decision, here's what you need to know about its risks, its benefits, and potential hormone replacement therapy side effects.
QUESTION: Please give some advice on hormone-replacement therapy. I am 52 and I have friends who rave about what hormone-replacement therapy has done for them. I'm not comfortable discussing the topic with my male doctor.
ANSWER: As a woman enters menopause, the ovaries decrease production of estrogen and progesterone. This reduction causes menstruation and fertility to ultimately cease. Common side effects of menopause include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings and more.
Until several years ago, these symptoms were thought to be best treated with hormone-replacement therapy (HRT). It was also thought that elevated estrogen levels could ward off osteoporosis and heart disease and improve quality of life. However, a large clinical trial known as the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) determined that HRT posed some health risks.
Estrogen alone has been associated with a slight increase in the number of strokes and some menopausal symptoms. Estrogen/progestin combination therapy has been linked to a greater number of abnormal mammogram reports. Evidence is now showing that the link between increased postmenopausal use of HRT and breast cancer is stronger and more conclusive. Nonetheless, the benefits of short-term therapy outweigh the potential risks one could experience.