Each week, OMRF Vice President of Clinical Affairs Dr. Judith James opens “Adam’s Journal” to answer a medical question from Adam Cohen, OMRF’s senior vice president & general counsel.
A friend who recently turned 50 is beginning to experience some symptoms of menopause, particularly less frequent menstrual periods. Her physician brought up the possibility of hormone replacement therapy. For a generally healthy woman, what are the risks and benefits of this type of treatment?
Dr. James Prescribes
As you might suspect, hormone replacement therapy is medication that contains female hormones. It primarily focuses on replacing the estrogen that a woman’s body no longer makes after menopause, although it can also contain progesterone or a synthetic equivalent.
Hormone therapy can be helpful with many of the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats and dryness. People suffering from these types of symptoms are the most likely to benefit from hormone therapy.
It can also help decrease bone loss around the menopause period.
Studies suggest that benefits generally outweigh dangers in women who start hormone therapy before age 60 and within 10 years of menopause. However, hormone therapy has been associated with some infrequent but serious complications.
The most common ones are stroke, blood clots and breast cancer. Risks vary according to the specific type, dose and length of hormone therapy as well as a person’s health history and age.
Each woman will have different symptoms and risk factors. So, as much as I’d like to be able to provide a one-size-fits-all response, the real answer is that each woman going through menopause should discuss these issues and treatment options with her health care provider.
Do you have a health query for Dr. James? Email email@example.com and your question may be answered in a future column!