New research has shown that there has been a big drop in breast cancer rates due to millions of women going off of their menopause hormones. Doctors are worried that this news will cause even more women to stop taking their pills. Doctors are also worried that women who have severe menopausal symptoms will overreact to the risks and will deny their bodies from the hormones.
The use of hormones by women has dropped dramatically since 2002 when a study found that it raised the risk of breast cancer, heart disease and other problems for women. Prior to 2002, it was believed that these same pills prevented many of these conditions and doctors prescribed them eagerly.
Approximately 2 million start menopause each year in the U.S. Only 1/4 of these women will have moderate to severe symptoms lasting longer than four years. Dr. JoAnn Manson, who is a women’s health expert at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston wrote a new book, “Hot Flashes, Hormones & Your Health”. In this book, she includes a flowchart that will help women decide whether to use hormones, the type of hormones, and for how long.
The main questions a women should consider before taking hormone therapy are:
- Are you already at risk of heart disease, blood clots or breast cancer that would make taking hormones a bad idea?
- Are your symptoms bad enough that they are truly disrupting your life?
Doctors all agree that hormone therapy helps. Doctors say that when they mention the potential risk of breast cancer, many women panic and say that they will just suffer with the menopause symptoms, no matter how severe. Dr. Manson says that there are ways to reap the benefits of hormone therapy while minimizing the risk.
Dr. Manson and her group offer the following suggestions:
- Take the lowest dose for the shortest time period (2 -3 years). Start the medication out at very low doses and increase dosages if symptoms do not subside.
- Do not take hormones for the simple reason of trying to prevent heart disease because they don’t prevent it.
- DO NOT EVER take estrogen without progestin for those who still have a uterus because it will raise the risk of uterine cancer.
- Try from time to time to cut your dose and wean yourself off of the hormones.
Dr. Manson also suggests, “It’s important that women do not try to discontinue and not just stay on the pills for many years”.