Basically, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is a kind of medication that contains female hormones which replace those that the ovaries or the body have ceased producing after the menopause period. Initially, HRT was regarded as a standard treatment method for women having hot flashes as well as additional menopause symptoms. Also, dubbed as hormone therapy, HRT was perceived to have enduring benefits associated with the prevention of osteoporosis and heart diseases. However, in 2002, the efficacy of HRT as regards symptoms alleviation was plagued with invariable controversies. It became apparent that attitudes towards hormone therapy abruptly changed when considerable clinical trials reported that HRT posed additional health risks as compared to the ensuing postmenopausal benefits for women (Clinical synthesis panel on HRT, 1999). Despite the pros and cons of HRT, women who have menopausal symptoms are presented with numerous treatment choices as compared to the past.
Based on the current HRT negative and positive evidence, women must rely on the best benefit guesses when seeking HRT. In fact, the benefits of HRT outweigh the accruing individual risks. For instance, the common reason why HRT is taken is to reduce virginal dryness, hot flushes, urinary symptoms and night sweats. Most studies comparing dummy pills or placebo with HRT present strong facts that hormone replacement therapy is a successful treatment method for such symptoms. Thus, in these cases, HRT should be utilized in a short-term period ranging from six months to five years. Irrespective of the known side effects of HRT, namely headaches, nausea, fluid retention and breast tenderness, other risks such as putting on more weight when under HRT seem very unclear. The fact is that most women tend to gain weight when growing older. Studies illustrate that women taking HRT might apparently gain less weight when compared to others (Corson, 1999).
Taking hormone replacement therapy for any reason other than for symptoms relief would imply long-term taking, probably during the entire lifetime. This could possibly be the point where the benefits and risks picture of HRT becomes murkier. Nevertheless, doctors should recommend HRT to aid in the prevention of heart disease and osteoporosis. With such a prescription, the probable key negative aspect of HRT could only be a diminutive breast cancer risk increment.
During menopause, women often experience osteoporosis. This is a condition ideally characterized by fragile and weak bones which tend to put aged women at high fracture risks. Given that bone persists as a living tissue that relentlessly breaks down and ought to be renewed, the osteoporosis condition takes place if the renewal process fails to stay abreast of breakdown. Such a state makes the bones progressively become less dense. This implies that during the menopausal transition period, women are susceptible to osteoporosis (Honner, 1954). The reason is that oestrogen levels assist in controlling the balance amid bone formation and breakdown fall down while bone breakdown increases. The resulting effect is an immense bone loss rate.
Owing to the fact that most women are likely to experience greater osteoporosis risks as most bone density tests have indicated, it is very clear that hormone replacement therapy would aid in bone maintenance and thus lower the anticipated fracture risks. Women who are in their menopausal periods should therefore be allowed to take HRT because the benefits only ensue provided they stay on this medication. This however does not imply that women will have to remain on similar medication their entire lives. Each and every day, novel anti-osteoporosis drugs crop up in the market to provide women with advanced options for the treatment and prevention of such a disease (Mader, 2006).
Conversely, in Australia, it is apparent that the leading cause of death is a heart disease which kills more women when compared to breast cancer. If a woman experiences high heart disease risk as a result of smoking, being overweight, family history or physical inactivity, long-term HRT should be recommended. Studies reveal that women taking HRT have lower cholesterol levels and hence fewer rates of a heart attack. Despite the claims that HRT should not be recommended to protect solely against heart diseases, most researchers assert that women taking HRT yet experience no problems should be encouraged to continue (Corson, 1999). The estrogens are known to help in improving the health of various blood vessel walls, but based on a particular blend of risk factors, hormone replacement therapy might help in protecting most women from heart disease.
Most women are scared of hormone replacement therapy given the associated breast cancer risks. For instance, the headlines released every month seem to be warning women against the high rates of getting breast cancer when they take HRT. It is, nonetheless, very difficult to precisely quantify any additional risks given the possible studies’ biasness. When taking HRT, any added breast cancer risk might only materialize depending on the weight of the woman. Women who appear above the upper boundary of the recommended body weight are reported to have zero breast cancer risk when taking HRT. Therefore, regardless of any noted health risk, HRT still persists as the gold standard for the treatment of most women’s menopausal symptoms (Clinical synthesis panel on HRT, 1999). This is because the absolute risks for women who take HRT appear to be relatively low while the short-term HRT benefits outweigh the ensuing risks.
Clinical synthesis panel on HRT (1999). Clinical synthesis conference: Hormone replacement therapy. The Lancet, 354, 152-55.
Corson, S. L. (1999). A practical guide to prescribing estrogen replacement therapy. International journal of fertility, 40, 229-247.
Honner, J. (1954). Problems of menopause. The Medical Journal of Australia, 1(8), 300.
Mader, S. S. (2006). Human Reproductive Biology. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Higher Education.