Hormone replacement therapy has waxed and waned in popularity from the 1970s through today. Early on, it was viewed as a “cure” for menopause, but in the early 2000s research seemed to indicate HRT raised women’s risk of breast cancer. Later studies appeared to show that the timing of HRT, along with dose and personal risk, actually provide a clearer picture of whether or not HRT would be beneficial.
If you find all of that confusing, you’re not alone! Dr. Parisa Pourzand and her staff routinely answer questions about HRT and risk. Dr. Pourzand considers many factors before recommending hormone therapy for you, or suggesting it’s not an appropriate approach in your circumstances.
Hormone replacement therapy explained
As you get closer to menopause, your body produces less and less of certain hormones, including estrogen. Estrogen plays a crucial role in numerous bodily functions, though most people think of it as “the female hormone.” Hormone replacement therapy raises the level of estrogen in your body as your natural production declines.
Along with its importance in menstruation, estrogen also helps to protect your bones, which is one reason that osteoporosis is so much more common among women who are beyond menopause. It may also help keep your heart healthy.
HRT is generally used to treat the symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal discomfort. Researchers have found that estrogen must be balanced by progesterone or progestin in women who have a uterus to lower the risk of endometrial cancer.
Timing is important
In one large clinical trial, researchers found that the risk of some serious conditions like heart disease and breast cancer were higher in women taking HRT. This, obviously, raised concerns among physicians. Later studies reached important conclusions regarding those risks, with one of the most important having to do with when women began and stopped HRT.
Three aspects of HRT are crucial when it comes to risk:
Women who are 60 years old or 10 years past menopause have the most pronounced risk. If HRT begins within 10 years of the onset of menopause or before the woman is 60 years old, the benefits likely outweigh the risks of HRT.
2. Type of HRT
There are several types of HRT, including the combination of hormones taken and the dosage, as well as the method of delivery. Oral, skin patch, ring, gel, cream, and spray forms of HRT are available, as well as low dose types. The type and the dosage are important in calculating risk.
3. Medical history
Your family medical history and your personal health history make a difference in your risk profile. If you have a history of cancer, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, osteoporosis, and numerous other conditions, your HRT could be more beneficial or more risky.
Highly qualified, tailored advice
In order to make a decision that benefits your health and doesn’t raise your risk of future problems about HRT, you need advice from an expert. And that advice shouldn’t be generic or based on what works for most people. You need advice that is tailored for your personal situation, but that is informed by the research that has been conducted to date.
Dr. Parisa Pourzand makes recommendations only after considering all the different aspects of your overall health and medical history, as well as your current symptoms. If you have questions about hormone therapy, the risks and the benefits, and how they may apply to you, schedule an appointment at either of Dr. Pourzand’s convenient locations. She’s happy to discuss HRT in the context of your situation.