For more helpful tips and women’s health expertise, head to Dr. Allmen’s website, drallmen.com. This post was originally featured there.
Over 13 years ago the results of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) were announced, leading many health care professionals and women to question whether the use of hormone therapy for the treatment of menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats was safe. In fact, the news back then seemed so scary, that many women were encouraged to quit using estrogen and progesterone. Even more women were discouraged from ever starting in the first place. What happened next is the most frustrating part of all. Menopausal women were basically abandoned by the medical community and left to suffer with debilitating symptoms and long-term health consequences like heart disease and osteoporosis.
An Update From The Women’s Health Initiative
The good news today is that a recent analysis of all of the original data of the WHI actually tells a different and more positive story, especially for women in the 50-59 year age group. I refer to this age group as the youngsters. These younger women are usually the ones suffering from significant menopausal symptoms and should absolutely be offered hormone therapy for relief. The data clearly shows that when women start hormone therapy close to the time of menopause, they reduce their overall mortality. That means women live longer and healthier lives. This phenomenon is referred to as the timing hypothesis. The key here is to start hormone therapy within 5 years of your last menstrual period in order to have an impact on heart health. This is also the time when women experience rapid bone loss, so using hormone therapy to treat menopausal symptoms gives a big bang for your buck.
Breast Cancer Risk and Hormone Therapy
I’d like to discuss the issue of breast cancer risk. The WHI was also able to demonstrate that for women who had a hysterectomy, and therefore only needed estrogen to treat symptoms, breast cancer risk was reduced! For some strange reason, this good news was not considered newsworthy for a long time. However, women and medical professionals are now catching on. The issue of breast cancer risk comes into play when women still have a uterus and therefore also need to take progesterone. The overall risk of breast cancer in this group was actually very small after 7 years of hormone therapy use, and the progesterone used in the WHI called Provera seemed to be the culprit. It is no longer in popular use.
So the answer to my question about whether hormone therapy is making a comeback is a resounding “YES!” Now go find yourself a qualified health care professional to discuss this with. If you don’t have a doctor currently, one place to start your search is www.menopause.org. Find someone you trust and connect with and move forward from there.