Going through menopause is a natural part of a woman’s life, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t challenging. Your body undergoes a permanent, life-altering change, and it getting to the other side of can be difficult mentally and physically. If you’re looking for relief from menopause symptoms and are considering hormone replacement treatment (HRT), consider its risks and benefits.
Hormone replacement treatment (also known as menopausal hormone therapy) is an extremely effective menopausal symptom treatment. HRT uses the natural female hormones estrogen and progesterone to treat and relieve women of common symptoms of menopause. When your body starts going through menopause, periods slow or become irregular, and your body lessens or stops producing certain hormones.
Doctors may suggest HRT if you’re experiencing symptoms such as painful intercourse, persistent hot flashes, or other uncomfortable results of menopause. There are forms of HRT that are non-invasive, such as a daily pill or patch, which eases the drastic changes in hormones that come with menopause. The level of HRT your doctor recommends will depend on the severity of your situation.
There are two types of HRT: estrogen therapy and estrogen/progesterone/progestin hormone therapy. If your doctor recommends you only take estrogen, you can increase your estrogen using a daily pill, patch, vaginal ring, vaginal gel, or vaginal spray. Doctors usually suggest a low daily dose of estrogen for women who have undergone a hysterectomy.
The second form of HRT is referred to as combination therapy, since it combines the hormones estrogen and progestin (the synthetic form of progesterone). Combination therapy is suitable for women who still have their uterus.
For the last 50 years, HRT was the standard for women with menopause symptoms. Now, however, doctors caution women to investigate the health risks before choosing HRT. A clinical study showed that a combination estrogen-progestin therapy can be linked to heart disease, stroke, blood clots, and even breast cancer in some patients. Those who have genetic pre-dispositions to cancer should avoid HRT.
In addition to these risks, HRT can make your breasts look denser on mammograms, decreasing the chances of detecting breast cancer. Studies found that when HRT is taken for more than a few years, it can increase the risk of breast cancer. However, risks vary depending on the type and dosage of HRT taken, the age of the woman, and preexisting health conditions.
To learn more about HRT, talk with your physician at Women’s Medical Associates of Nashville.