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Hormone replacement therapy makes comeback in menopause treatment

October 23, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
For years gynecologists prescribed hormone replacement therapy to relieve hot flashes, night sweats and other symptoms of menopause. But that all changed when a large clinical trial found the treatment actually posed more health risks than benefits. More and more doctors are bringing the therapy back.

It wasn't that long ago that 60-year-old Cherie Mason didn't feel like herself. After a hysterectomy, menopause hit her at age 40 and depression set in. Cherie's menopause caused her hormone count to plummet.

"Estrogen controls 400 different functions in our bodies," said Dr. Jennifer Landa.

Hormone expert Dr. Landa recommended Cherie try something not so new: hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

"It helps them sleep better, it helps them feel better, it helps them think better, it helps them look better," said 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.

"Hormone replacement has gotten very controversial," said 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 10 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.

Dr. 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.

So does hormone replacement therapy help or is it hype? Experts say it's something each woman will have to decide for herself.

Hormones decline naturally as we age. Research by Johns Hopkins University suggests postmenopausal women who want to use estrogen to reduce symptoms should not stay on it for more than five years.


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