Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
is the use of medications that contain female hormones (oestrogen,
progesterone) to replace the hormones that the body can no longer make
naturally after menopause. Its main purpose is to treat menopausal symptoms
especially hot flushes.
It was initially thought that
hormone therapy had long-term benefits such as preventing heart disease and
dementia, but recent evidence suggests that it actually poses more health risks
than benefits. It is therefore important to discuss the potential benefits and
risks of the hormone treatment with a doctor prior to initiating the therapy.
Associated risks differ depending
on many factors such as: whether oestrogen is given alone or in combination
with progesterone, dose and type of oestrogen, the woman’s current age and age
at menopause, other health factors such as risk of cardiovascular disease, cancers
and family medical history. All these factors will have to be considered
between the patient and her doctor in order to come into a conclusion that the
potential benefits outweigh the risk. In the event HRT is prescribed, it
should be used in the lowest possible dose for the shortest possible time.
Benefits of Hormonal Replacement
of menopausal symptoms
in the incidence of osteoporosis and related fractures
risk of Alzheimer’s disease
bowel cancer risk
The potential health risks
associated with Hormone Replacement Therapy include:
disadvantages such as irregular bleeding with some hormonal regimens and side
effects such as headaches, nausea, breast tenderness, bloating and weight
heart attack risk
risk of breast cancer, endometrial cancer
risk of clotting of blood and its potential fatal effects such as pulmonary
embolism and stroke.
Hickey, M., Elliott, J., & Davison, S. L. (2012). Hormone replacement
therapy. BMJ, 344, e763.