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May 3, 2012

3 Questions To Ask About Hormone Replacement Therapy (Menopause)

Hormone replacement therapy menopause and women
Image by nathansnostalgia via Flickr

Years ago, a lot of women count on hormone replacement therapy for menopause symptoms. Measuring up to expectations, HRT indeed relieved these unwanted symptoms as well as minimize other risks associated with menopause, such as osteoporosis, while still in the dark that the treatment is a minefield of side effects. Alas, a big study later revealed that the side effects of hormone therapy, including of breast cancer, pulmonary emboli, coronary heart disease, and strokes, greatly override its benefits, prompting the medical world to make a dramatic shift in how they manage menopause. Nonetheless, estrogen supplementation is still used for particular cases where it can significantly benefit the patient. Because of this development, a lot of women get confused whether or not they should undergo HRT, and if they do, what should they do to minimize the risks. So to help clarify things, here are answers to three questions that may be nagging at the back of your mind.

1. How do I know whether or not hormone replacement therapy for menopause is suitable for my case?

When determining whether to undergo estrogen replacement, consider a number of factors, such as your present health condition and medical history. With the guidance of your physician, determine your risk factors in relation to your medical history and assess whether the benefits can make up for the risks. Consider looking for alternatives to hormone replacement therapy for menopause if you have any of the following in your health profile:

  • History of breast cancer in the family
  • History of endometrial or uterine cancer
  • History of venous thrombosis (blood clots in the veins, such as those experience during pregnancy or while taking birth control pills)
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding, like severely heavy periods or spotting between periods
  • Chronic liver diseas
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Smoker

2. How can I minimize the adverse effects of hormone replacement therapy for menopause?

If not for its side effects, the intake of HRT should not be a problem since it has been proven to be effective especially in relieving hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. But with the adverse events being the bone of contention, then you may be wondering if there could be ways to minimize the incidence of side effects. Well, there is and that is by altering the dosage or by shifting to another form of HRT. The detrimental cardiovascular effects associated with HRT may only involve orally administered progestin and equine estrogens in Prempo since these are the ones involved in the WHI study that revealed the adverse effects of HRT. Other forms of HRT, including topical estradiol and estriol may not bring in similar dangers. Make sure though that you perform these adjustments with the guidance of your doctor.

3. For how long should I be under hormone replacement therapy for menopause?

The element of time is another factor in the incidence of side effects when taking HRT. Prolonged intake can possibly increase the incidence of side effects. Although the exact safe time frame for HRT be taken has yet to be established, experts argue on when it should be discontinued. Some say 10 years, others say earlier than 10 years. Hence, it is important to annually reassess with your doctor regarding your period of intake especially if you have developed a health condition that can make HRT riskier for you. Also, when you stop intake, brace yourself for the menopausal symptoms and risks to reappear.

Due to the adverse effects associated with hormone replacement therapy for menopause, women should seek constant guidance from their doctors in determining whether the treatment is appropriate for them, what to do to minimize side effects, and for how long should they be taking it.

See related articles.

“Having Hot Flashes?”

‘Managing the Side Effects of Hormone Replacement Therapy”

“How Declining Sex Hormone Levels Lead to Fat Gain”

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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