Hormone replacement therapy uses synthetic medications that contain certain levels of female hormones that the patient’s body no longer produces to treat symptoms of menopause. Hormone replacement therapy was a common treatment option for menopausal women until a landmark study in 2002 identified risk factors. There are benefits and risks associated with hormone therapy that should carefully be considered and discussed with a health care provider.

Benefits of Hormone Replacement Therapy

Standard hormone replacement therapy patients take doses of estrogen and progestin, a synthetic version of the hormone progesterone. The therapy is generally short-term and helps relieve symptoms associated with menopause including vaginal dryness, burning, itching and intercourse discomfort.

Long term hormone replacement therapy is not recommended for women who are transitioning into menopause naturally. It can be effective for women who have had surgeries that initiate menopause. Aside from the relief of menopausal symptoms the benefits of short-term hormone replacement therapy include:

Osteoporosis prevention – Hormone replacement therapy has been proven to prevent bone loss and frailty that can occur post menopause. Women who underwent hormone therapy had a hip fracture rate far less than the national average of post-menopausal women.

Heart disease prevention – Anecdotal data suggests that women who take estrogen during their post-menopausal years have a decreased risk of heart disease. A major research effort conducted by a government led research group nearing its conclusion may provide more evidence.

Colorectal cancer prevention – Several studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine show that short-term hormone replacement therapy decreases the risk of colon cancer in post-menopausal women.

Risks of Hormone Replacement Therapy

Results of a study published by the Mayo Clinic revealed that women who underwent hormone replacement therapy have slightly elevated risks for certain health problems like:

  • Heart disease
  • Blood clots
  • Breast cancer
  • Stroke

The study included patients who were taking both estrogen and progestin. The increased percentage of these risks was only .001%, but should be noted because of the severity of the health risks.

Is Hormone Therapy Right for Me?

Women who have breast cancer, heart disease or a history of blood clots should avoid hormone replacement therapy. Typically, it is a fairly safe treatment method for the majority of women. Anyone considering it should discuss it with their health care provider.