HRT: Where Are We Now?
Is hormone therapy (HRT) making a comeback?
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
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
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.
If you take HRT, keep in mind that the absolute risks are low. But you
should still regularly check in with your doctor. Ask if there is any new
information that might cause you to rethink your decision.
"Hormone therapy is a field that continues to change rapidly," says Shuster.
"Treatment has to be more individualized than ever. Women are seeking the one
right answer, but for now, we just don't have one."