Hormone Replacement Therapy

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the medical means of replenishing the female hormones which sink to low levels after menopause. HRT has long stood in as the standard first line of treatment for women suffering from menopause symptoms like vaginal dryness and hot flashes. Experts also believe that HRT can provide certain long-term benefits-for instance as a preventative measure against heart disease and osteoporosis.

Eternity's Dustbin

But back in 2002, a study found that HRT posed a significant health risk, far more significant in fact, than any of its benefits for the menopausal woman. Other researchers began to turn up various health risks they attributed to HRT. Physicians started to be wary about prescribing HRT to their patients. Many women just stopped using the medication, sometimes without even bothering to consult their doctors.

Salient Points

Though most doctors and their patients had consigned HRT to the dustbin of eternity, not all the experts were persuaded. One large study named the Women's Health Initiative found out that HRT was not the great evil everyone had supposed. Thanks to their dogged research, women everywhere are now hearing the truth about HRT, including these salient points:

*Women who start HRT before age 60 lower their risk for coronary heart disease.

*According to the Women's Health Initiative study, the breast cancer risk in women who use HRT for 5-7 years can be cut to 7 cases in 10,000 women who have undergone a hysterectomy just by taking estrogen-only HRT.

*There is so significant increase in the risk for breast cancer in women who take HRT as long as women take combined estrogen and progestogen for a period shorter than 5 years.

*Women who take combination HRT for five years or more do have a very minimal increase in their risk for the development of breast cancer: 8 in 10,000 women or 0.1 for each year of combination HRT for five years or longer.

*HRT is still the best method around for relieving moderate or severe menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness.

*HRT serves as a preventative measure against osteoporosis and bone fractures

*HRT tends to improve quality of life for women after menopause, but there is a slight increase in a woman's risks for gallbladder disease and thrombosis with the use of HRT, though the risk varies according to a woman's age and health situation.

*There are medications that are not hormone-based that can relieve certain symptoms of menopause, but none of the complementary or alternative therapies have been shown to be any better than placebo treatment.