Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a treatment used for postmenopausal symptoms or for women who have had a hysterectomy.
During the controversial therapy, women are given medication that contains two female hormones—estrogen and progestin—to replace the natural hormones that their bodies are no longer producing. HRT used to be a very standard treatment prescribed by women’s doctors, but then two studies done in 2002 and 2003 showed it could cause more harm than good.
Risks of Hormone Replacement Therapy
Based on the studies done as a part of the Women’s Health Initiative, HRT could increase the risk of certain serious health problems including breast cancer, heart disease, blood clots and stroke. Also, if estrogen and progestin are taken together, it can be more difficult to spot breast cancer on a mammogram because breast tissue becomes denser with these synthetic hormones.
The risks of HRT can be higher or lower depending on your age, stage of menopause and dose, so it’s important to evaluate all of these things before deciding on treatment.
Benefits of Hormone Replacement Therapy
Despite the fact that studies showed some increased risks, HRT may not be all bad. It is still believed to be one of the most effective treatments for menopausal symptoms (such as hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal discomfort) in women to date.
If you are a healthy woman dealing with any of the following symptoms, HRT could be a good option to consider:
- Moderate to severe hot flashes
- Premature menopause
Deciding What is Right for You
If you’re struggling with menopausal symptoms, talk to your gynecologist about hormone replacement therapy. Factors such as your age, symptoms, medical history and possible risks should all be taken into account.
HRT has been found to be beneficial for most women who use the treatment as a short-term solution and lowest effective dose. If used correctly, the benefits of HRT can outweigh the possible risks.
Talk to your gynecologist about your treatment options.