HRT and menopause

HRT and menopause….what are the risks?

When a woman is in her reproductive years, her ovaries produce a certain amount of hormones known as oestrogen and progesterone. These hormones help regulate a woman’s regular menstrual cycle, as well as help determine a woman’s secondary sexual characteristics while preparing her body for fertilization and reproduction. 

When a woman reaches menopause, her body will produce less oestrogen and progesterone.

The decrease in hormones that menopause brings can cause some bothersome symptoms in menopausal women such as insomnia, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness. 

Hormone replacement therapy – or HRT – can help relieve some of these symptoms, as well as others. HRT is when a woman takes a synthetic oestrogen and progesterone, which is designed to replace a woman’s decreasing hormones during and after menopause.

Research studies have show that HRT can also assist with the prevention of osteoporosis, heart disease, and short term memory loss in many post-menopausal women. 

However, a more recent research study has show that hormone replacement therapy may pose increased risks of such diseases as ovarian cancer, and cancer of the uterine lining. Not only that, but some scientists believe that HRT can also be linked to breast cancer. Patients, along with physicians, should weigh the advantages and disadvantages of HRT before making any final decisions. Side effects of HRT often depend on the patients individual circumstances.

Main Hormone Supplements

Oestrogen and progesterone are the two main hormone supplements that are most commonly used in hormone replacement therapy. Oestrogen without progesterone may cause an over stimulation of tissues that line the uterus. Research studies have shown that this can lead to uncontrolled tissue growth, that can from there, lead to cancer. Progesterone is used to counteract this increased risk, therefore, menopausal women with their uterus intact most often are prescribed both hormones together.

The most commonly prescribed oestrogen brand names include:

  • Premarin
  • Estrace
  • Ogen
  • Estaderm
  • Climara
  • Vivelle

The most commonly prescribed progesterone brand names include:

  • Provera
  • Cycrin
  • Currtab Amen
  • Micronized
  • Norethindrone

Due to oestrogen and progesterone being linked to increased cancer risks, there are concerns about prescribing HRT hormone supplements to women who have already had cancer in her life. To counteract this increased risk of cancer, physicians typically prescribe progesterone in conjunction with other hormone supplements to help decrease the risk.