What Is Hormone Replacement Therapy?

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) consists of using two hormones, estrogen and progesterone, to relieve the symptoms of menopause. Menopause is a naturally occurring event in the lives of all women. One third of your life will probably happen after menopause.

Hormone replacement therapy remains a viable treatment option for the treatment of menopause. Your physician can discuss with you the latest findings related to the benefits and risks of HRT.

Your decision to initiate HRT should be based on a number of factors including:

  • The severity of your menopausal symptoms and how they are affecting your life.
  • Your individual risk for osteoporosis and heart disease.
  • Your individual risk for cancers of the breast and reproductive system.

If you have had your uterus surgically removed, then you will only need to take estrogen. For those with a uterus progesterone is added to cut the risk of uterine cancer that exists with unopposed estrogen (estrogen without progesterone).

What Are the Benefits of HRT?

Hormone replacement therapy may:

  • Help to prevent osteoporosis, and can even reverse bone loss that has already occurred.
  • Help protect against heart disease – HDL (high-density lipids, the so-called “good” cholesterol) levels increase, LDL (low density lipids, the “bad” cholesterol) levels decrease.
  • Relieve menopausal symptoms including hot flashes, insomnia, vaginal dryness and atrophy.

What Are the Risks of HRT?

If you have a uterus, taking estrogen without progesterone increases the risk of endometrial cancer.

There is the possibility of a slightly increased risk of developing breast cancer with prolonged hormone replacement therapy. Many studies have shown no increase in risk. For long-term use, the incidence of breast cancer may rise from 10 per 10,000 women a year to 13 per 10,000 women a year.