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HRT: Where Are We Now?

Is hormone therapy (HRT) making a comeback?

So Who Needs Hormone Replacement Therapy? continued...

"We have other ways of cutting the risks of heart attacks and strokes," Schiff tells WebMD, including better diet, exercise, and other medicines.

Will HRT ever again be used as prevention for these serious diseases? Only time and research will tell. The experts remain divided.

"I believe that studies in the next few years will support using hormone therapy in younger women [closer to the onset of menopause] for prevention," says Shuster. "But "we don't have all the information yet."

How Long Should You Use HRT?

Another big question is how long hormone replacement therapy can be used safely. It was once thought that using it for five years or less to relieve menopausal symptoms had no risks. But the WHI study seemed to show that was not the case.

There are still a lot of unknowns. Many women now take doses of hormones that are lower than the ones used in the WHI trial. Hormones are also delivered not just through pills, but in other forms, like skin patches. We don't know yet whether these lower concentrations and different forms might decrease the risks.

For now, the FDA recommends that women who take hormone replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms take the lowest effective dose and for the shortest time period to alleviate symptoms.

Making Sense of Hormone Replacement Therapy

With all of the contradictory messages, it's hard for a woman to know what to do. There's also a lot of lingering anger about what happened in the wake of the Women's Health Initiative results.

"I lost a lot of faith in my doctors after that," says April Dawson, a 63-year-old Connecticut woman who used hormone replacement therapy for about a year. "And all of the women I know feel the same way.

"In the first place, I didn't like the idea of going on medication when I didn't have any symptoms," Dawson tells WebMD. "But I feel like my doctors ganged up on me and pushed me to take it."

Today, doctors are far more likely to tell each woman that she must make the decision herself, weighing the pros and cons of hormone replacement therapy, considering her symptoms, family history, lifestyle, and risk of disease.

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