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HRT: Revisiting the Hormone Decision

It's been 5 years since studies proclaimed hormone replacement therapy a danger for women. WebMD investigates today’s changes and tells you what you need to know to make the HRT decision.

Where We Are Today

While studies are still ongoing, and reanalysis of the original data continues to shape our opinions, experts say there are a few lessons learned thus far that are not likely to change.

Among them: That hormone replacement therapy is not a panacea for disease prevention -- even in situations where it was found to be helpful, such as reduction in hip fractures.

Moreover, if hormone replacement therapy must be used to quell menopause symptoms, the lowest possible dose for the shortest possible duration is now the standard of care.

Today the emphasis rests on the importance of treating every woman individually, with decisions about hormone use made strictly on a case-by-case basis.

"Gone forever are the days when every doctor routinely prescribed HRT for every woman over 50; today, the decision to go on hormone therapy, even short term, must take into consideration a host of individual health and lifestyle factors," says Smith.

Among the most important things to discuss with your doctor, says Smith, is your personal and family history of heart disease, stroke, blood clots, breast cancer and breast disease, and your reproductive history. Also important: personal lifestyle choices such as smoking, alcohol use, diet, and your current weight and blood pressure.

"I think one of the most valuable lessons to come out WHI is that every woman needs -- and deserves to have -- individualized care, not just for menopause symptoms, but for all health concerns," Stuenkel notes.

And that, she says, is a lesson we should not soon forget.

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Reviewed on July 20, 2007

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