Myths and Facts About Hormone Replacement Therapy

Each woman’s journey through menopause is different — some sail through with ease while others are plagued with serious quality-of-life issues. Most women fall somewhere in between and, depending on the severity and duration of their symptoms, seek ways to ease this transition. That said, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is one of the most effective options. But this treatment avenue often leads to many questions.

At K & K OB-GYN & Cosmetics, our team of board-certified women’s health physicians offers hormone replacement therapy to our New York City clients. The reason we offer this service is that we’ve done our homework and understand the pros and cons of addressing hormonal imbalances through replacement therapy.

Here’s a look at some of the myths and facts surrounding hormone replacement therapy.

HRT and your health

In the early 2000s, the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) conducted a trial of combined estrogen and progestin (as Prempro) for addressing the side effects of menopause. The trial was put to an end when researchers found that women who underwent this HRT had a higher risk of breast cancer, heart disease, stroke, and blood clots. This action placed HRT in the national headlines and drowned out the other findings. 

To start, there is some evidence that there is a small increase in risk of heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer after five or more years of HRT. But most of our patients use HRT only to weather the transition and we don’t recommend it for long-term use.

For our patients who do need a long-term solution because of early menopause or a hysterectomy, we typically use estrogen alone, which can lead to overall better heart, bowel, and reproductive health. It’s the addition of progesterone (or the synthetic progestin) that may cause a slight increase in breast cancer risk.

HRT can also have a positive effect on your bone and digestive health. For example, one of the primary concerns after menopause is osteoporosis, or low bone density. Studies, including the trial we mention above, have found that there’s a reduced risk of osteoporosis in women who undergo hormone replacement therapy. Similarly, HRT may reduce your risk of colon cancer.

HRT is a not a cure

One of the points we want to stress is that menopause is a perfectly natural, and inevitable, transition. HRT doesn’t reverse anything reproductively, but, rather, helps offset some of the more disruptive symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, and sexual health.

In other words, HRT isn’t a cure for menopause — that will still happen no matter what. What we can do with HRT is help you make the transition more smoothly, especially if your journey is a bumpy one that lasts for years.

Start right away

As a last point, HRT is best for women who are in the early stages of menopause. The study by the WHI found that, “Women starting estrogen for treatment of hot flashes in their 50s have a relatively good benefit-to-risk profile. Their risks of heart attack, overall illness, and death tend to be reduced, especially when compared to the increased risks in older women.”

If you’d like to learn more about HRT, we invite you to contact one of our four offices, located in Midtown Manhattan and Brighton Beach in Brooklyn.

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