Otherwise known as HRT, hormone replacement therapy was first used in the early 1960s, and since then millions of women have undergone this treatment to help with their menopausal symptoms.
Menopause creates a shift of hormones in a woman’s body, causing symptoms that range from pesky to downright life-altering. For some women, the symptoms are so frustrating and pervasive that they feel trapped in someone else’s body and that they have no control over their weight, their moods, or their sexuality. If this sounds familiar, you might have considered a medical option like HRT as a way to help treat your symptoms.
Hormone replacement therapy helps to replace hormones such as estrogen, progestin, and testosterone and it can be delivered a number of ways, including through patches, creams, tablets, vaginal rings, and even injections. (Your unique HRT treatment will depend on your own hormone levels and needs). Although many women report great improvement in their symptoms as a result of HRT, there is also alarming research which finds a strong link between HRT and breast cancer. In fact, in 2002, the Women's Health Initiative of the National Institutes of Health released findings that linked HRT with an increased incidence of breast cancer, heart attack, and stroke. For many women, these findings were frightening enough to dissuade them from undergoing treatment, however, it’s something every woman must decide for herself after having serious conversations with her doctor.
Before you undergo hormone replacement therapy, consider the following:
HRT isn’t for women who can manage their symptoms without medical assistance. Menopause affects every woman differently. Some people experience minor hot flashes, a bit of weight gain, and slight moodiness every now and then. Other women can barely cope with their lives as a result of the physical and emotional changes of menopause. If you belong to the former group, that’s wonderful, and you shouldn’t take on the risk of HRT to treat your minor symptoms. Instead, utilize more holistic measures and make small lifestyle changes to improve your symptoms: If you’re grappling with weight gain, up your exercise and join a weekly exercise class with your friends. Cut out sugar and processed foods, and decrease the amount of empty calories you take in (for example, Pinot Grigio and the like). If you’re suffering from night sweats, invest in NiteSweatz™ moisture-wicking sleepwear, which actually wicks away moisture from the body as you sleep (not to mention, they look pretty cute!).
HRT is to be used in moderation. If you decide to undergo HRT, keep in mind that the Women's Health Initiative advised that women undergo HRT only when absolutely necessary, and only in the smallest dose and for the shortest amount of time possible. Your doctor ought to base your treatment with moderation and caution in mind, and you should feel free to talk to him about any concerns you might have. And, remember, even in moderation, HRT still comes with an increased risk of cancer among other things.
Consider genetics. If you have a high incidence of breast cancer in your family, you should share this information with your doctor, as this might be a sign that HRT is not a viable option for you. Your health must always come first, and it’s better to be safe rather than sorry.