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Hormone Replacement Therapy for Menopause

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What Are the Risks of Taking Hormone Replacement Therapy?

In recent years, several studies showed that women taking HRT have a higher risk of breast cancer, heart disease, stroke, and blood clots. The largest study was the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), a 15-year study tracking over 161,800 healthy, postmenopausal women. The study found that women who took the combination therapy had an increased risk of heart disease. The overall risks of long-term use outweighed the benefits, the study showed.

But after that, a handful of studies based on WHI research have focused on the type of therapy, the way it’s taken, and when treatment started. Those factors can produce different results. One recent study by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center reveals that antidepressants offer benefits similar to low-dose estrogen without the risks.

With all the conflicting research, it’s easy to see why HRT can be confusing.

Who Shouldn’t Take Hormone Replacement Therapy?

If you have these conditions, you may want to avoid HRT:

  • Blood clots
  • Cancer (such as breast, uterine, or endometrial)
  • Heart or liver disease
  • Heart attack
  • Known or suspected pregnancy
  • Stroke

What Are the Side Effects of Hormone Replacement Therapy?

HRT comes with side effects. Call your doctor if you have any of these:

  • Bloating
  • Breast swelling or tenderness
  • Headaches
  • Mood changes 
  • Nausea
  • Vaginal bleeding

How Do I Know If Hormone Replacement Therapy Is Right for Me?

Your doctor can help you weigh the pros and cons and suggest choices based on your age, your family's medical history, and your personal medical history.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD, FACOG on August 29, 2014
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