Hormone replacement therapy: Help or hype?

November 7, 2012 9:19:39 AM PST
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 more and more, doctors are bringing the therapy back.

Cherie Mason's day starts with a little bit of this and a dab of that.

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," Mason said.

Mason's menopause caused her hormone count to plummet.

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

Dr. Landa, a hormone expert, recommended Mason 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," she said.

The therapy was the standard treatment for menopause symptoms for years. But that stopped when studies linked it to cancer, heart attacks and stroke. (:07)

"Hormone replacement has gotten very controversial," Dr. Landa said.

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 Mason.

After starting HRT, her symptoms disappeared in a few days.

"It was amazing, amazing," she said.

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 suggest postmenopausal women who want to use estrogen to reduce symptoms should not use it for more than five years.


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