For years, gynecologists prescribed hormone replacement therapy to relieve hot flashes, night sweats and other symptoms of menopause.
That all changed when a large clinical trial found the treatment actually posed more health risks than benefits.
But now, more and more doctors are bringing the therapy back.
Cherie Mason's day starts with a little bit of this, a dab of that, and a lot of this. But it wasn't that long ago the 60 year-old didn't feel like herself. After a hysterectomy, menopause hit her at just 40, and depression set in.
"I just don't even want to be here anymore," says Cherie Mason.
Cherie's menopause caused her hormone count to plummet.
"Estrogen controls 400 different functions in our bodies," explains Jennifer Landa, MD, of BodyLogicMD.
Hormone expert Doctor Jennifer Landa recommended Cherie try something not so new, hormone replacement therapy.
"It helps them sleep better, helps them feel better, it helps them think better, it helps them look better," describes Dr. Landa.
The therapy was the standard treatment for menopause symptoms for years. But that stopped when studies linked it to cancer, heart attacks and stroke.
Jennifer Landa MD
"Hormone replacement has gotten very controversial," says Dr. Landa.
But, it's gaining popularity again, sometimes in lower doses. Critics have pointed out flaws in older research, and several experts have changed their views, or concluded the warnings were over-generalized.
A recent study shows women who start HRT before age 60 or within ten years of menopause have a lower risk of heart disease and overall mortality. The research shows for heart health, hormone therapy is more beneficial than statins or aspirin.
Doctor Landa says the key is personalized hormone treatment and while it might not work for everyone, it worked for Cherie. After starting HRT her symptoms disappeared in a few days.
"It was amazing, amazing," says Mason.
So does hormone replacement therapy help or is it hype? It's something each woman will have to decide for herself. Hormones decline as we age naturally.
Research by Johns Hopkins suggests postmenopausal women who want to use estrogen to reduce symptoms should not use it for more than five years.
HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY: HELP OR HYPE?
WHAT IS HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY?: Hormone replacement therapy - medications containing female hormones to replace the ones the body no longer makes after menopause - used to be a standard treatment for women with hot flashes and other menopause symptoms. Hormone therapy (as it's now called) was also thought to have the long-term benefits of preventing heart disease and possibly dementia. Use of hormone therapy changed abruptly when a large clinical trial found that the treatment actually posed more health risks than benefits for one type of hormone therapy, particularly when given to older postmenopausal women. As the concern about health hazards attributed to hormone therapy grew, doctors became less likely to prescribe it. Hormone therapy is no longer recommended for disease prevention, such as heart disease or memory loss. However, further review of clinical trials and new evidence shows that hormone therapy may be a good choice for certain women, depending on their risk factors. (Source: MayoClinic.com)
BENEFITS OF HORMONE THERAPY: Systemic hormone therapy contains systemic estrogen (pill, skin patch, gel, cream or spray form) and is the most effective treatment for relief of hot flashes and night sweats. Estrogen can also ease vaginal symptoms of menopause (dryness, itching, burning and discomfort with intercourse). Low-dose vaginal preparations of estrogen (cream, tablet or ring form) can effectively treat vaginal symptoms and some urinary symptoms, while minimizing absorption into the body. Long-term systemic hormone therapy for the prevention of postmenopausal conditions is no longer routinely recommended, but some data suggest that estrogen can decrease the risk of heart disease when taken early in postmenopausal years. A randomized, controlled clinical trial - the Kronos Early Estrogen Prevention Study (KEEPS) - exploring estrogen use and heart disease in younger postmenopausal women is under way. Reports of results are expected in the near future. (Source: MayoClinic.com)
RISKS OF HORMONE THERAPY: The risks of hormone therapy may vary depending on whether estrogen is given alone or with a progestin, and depending on your current age and age at menopause, the dose and type of estrogen, and other health risks such as your risks of heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease, cancer risks and family medical history. Serious risk factors include heart disease, stroke, blood clots, and breast cancer. (Source: MayoClinic.com)
WHO SHOULD USE HORMONE THERAPY?: Your age, type of menopause and time since menopause play a significant role in the risks associated with hormone therapy. Talk with your doctor about your personal risks. (Source: MayoClinic.com)
For More Information, Contact:
Jennifer Landa, MD
Chief Medical Officer of BodyLogicMD
(888)799-5821 ext. 4.