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Hormone Replacement Therapy Options

According to the American Cancer Society, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is often given as a systemic therapy, which means that the hormones are given as pills or as a patch.

Hormones are then able to be absorbed through the digestive system or the skin and reach all parts of the body through the bloodstream. As another option, hormone treatments may be applied topically to reach only certain areas rather than affecting the whole body.

How HRT Can Help You
Innovative hormone replacement therapy (HRT) options at Presbyterian Hospital of Allen are helping women suffering from menopausal and peri-menopausal symptoms find relief.

Menopause can be a challenging time for many women. According to the American Cancer Society, as menopause nears, the ovaries produce less estrogen and progesterone, which can lead to hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness and urinary problems. It also contributes to medical conditions such as osteoporosis.

The Benefits of HRT
HRT is used to supplement the body’s production of estrogen alone in women who have had a hysterectomy or estrogen and progesterone in combination in women who still have a uterus.

“Estrogen is the most effective treatment available for relief of troublesome menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats,” says Shea Joyner, M.D., gynecologist on the medical staff at Presbyterian Hospital of Allen. “If a woman has not had a hysterectomy, however, estrogen can increase her risk for endometrial cancer. In these cases, progesterone is used in addition to estrogen to counteract the effects of the estrogen on the uterus.”

Risks of HRT
For many years, physicians thought that, in addition to combating menopausal symptoms, HRT also helped protect patients against heart disease. In 2002, however, the results of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) conducted by the National Institutes of Health found HRT actually increased the risk of heart disease, stroke and breast cancer.

For this reason, physicians no longer recommend long-term hormone therapy for menopausal conditions, but generally start patients at the lowest-possible hormone doses and recommend using them only as long as necessary.

“Most patients do well with HRT without any complications, but for those who are worried about the risks, there are some alternatives, including antidepressants, blood clot medications and herbal remedies that can also be helpful,” says Dr. Joyner. “Menopause is different for every woman, and some treatments may work better for some than they do for others.

"If you are experiencing menopausal symptoms, the best thing to do is contact your physician to see what treatment options fit your specific needs.” (Summer 2008)

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