Hormone replacement therapy: another look


Two years ago this past month the National Institutes for Health (NIH) announced the findings of their seven-year study on hormone replacement therapy (HRT.) The highlights of those results appeared in every magazine from Time to The Ladies Home Journal, all the major newspapers, TV newsmagazines and nightly news programs. The results as reported were seen as so dangerous that part of the study was abandoned after five years claiming an increased risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer for women using HRT.

The report also blackballed the idea that HRT was good for the bones and cardiovascular health. Therefore, women that were not suffering from the symptoms of menopause stopped as well on the advice of their physician.

I know women that threw their hormone tablets down the toilet swearing never to take another. Other women armed with knowledge and insight felt they knew their body and calmly continued taking HRT.

A new study recently published on that study found several interesting statistics not widely reported including the fact that an undisclosed percentage of the women studied were smokers. Granted a true cross-section of the female population in this country are smokers, but still why were we not informed?

As a health care professional I find it disturbing to say the least. As a woman I wonder who does have our best interests at heart? I tend to be suspicious of ulterior motives and undue influence by the pharmaceutical manufacturers.

That very summer I asked my personal physician what his take on the NIH study was. Come to find out he had just returned from seminar on family medicine where the study was reviewed and they too found flaws. His bottom line, in his 20-some years of practice he has seen the use of HRT vilified and praised at least a half-dozen times.

In the end we have one more study that will hopefully some day shed some light on the use of HRT for menopausal women. After all hormones are very powerful substances that should not be used indiscriminately. Unfortunately it seems at this point in time it has only added to the confusion for women wanting or needing HRT.

Some food for thought:

If you are taking HRT–DON’T SMOKE!

• Examine closely your personal and physical needs. Does it actually make you feel better?

• Partner with a doctor who makes you feel good about yourself and is willing to answer your questions regarding the use of HRT.

• Be willing to experiment with the different kinds of HRT and their application (pills vs. a patch.)

• Are you willing to try some natural therapies to relieve your menopausal symptoms? If you are good, but remember it will take a major overhaul of diet and lifestyle as well to achieve results. Keep in mind that this route may actually bring you other health benefits, not just menopausal relief.

The fact that medicine will never be an exact science is a difficult concept for most of us. We want absolutes, studies that are precise and accurate that contain the information that we need to better care for ourselves. Since the process is and always will be flawed, we need to learn to rely at least in part on what our body and our intuition are telling us because the body never lies.

Till next time, Rebecca .