Risks vs Benefits of HRT – How to Decide

For women having a difficult time through the menopause, the options for treatment are numerous. There are many other non-hormonal drugs available but none has proven to be as effective as HRT.

This does not mean that every menopausal woman should take HRT – many do not need any treatment at all.

Even if you are considering HRT, it is important to balance its favourable action on osteoporosis and heart disease against the increased risks of cancer. Overall, the effect of HRT is to reduce deaths in users by over 40 per cent. Obviously this figure is slightly meaningless in the sense that everyone dies eventually, but it does show that the life expectancy of HRT users is greater than that of non-users.

Facts and figures aside, your personal decision to take HRT depends on weighing your indi­vidual needs and requirements against any possible risks associated with the treatment. If the benefits outweigh the potential risks, then go ahead. If the balance is less clear, you may wish to discuss alternative options or seek the opinion of a specialist. Some women with obvious risks, such as a very strong family history of breast cancer, may still choose HRT if they are at risk of osteoporosis or suffer severe menopausal symptoms.

The important factor is infor­mation – without this it is impossible to decide which is the best path for you to take. Do not be afraid of seeking out information, and if you do not understand it, ask. Be careful to select the right sources as the amount of misinformation in the general press provokes confusion.

You can always try HRT for a few months and see how its suits you. Take it for at least three months before making your assessment, as it can take that long before your body settles down to the hormonal changes.

Remember also that there are several different regimens; if you started with tablets but find it hard to remember to take them every day, try the patches – you may need to try several different combinations before finding the one that suits you best. Similarly, the initial dose or type of oestrogen or progestogen may need to be altered if you experience side effects.

Do not feel that you have to persevere if HRT just does not suit you. There are numerous alternatives to HRT, but none is a substitute for a healthy lifestyle with a good diet and adequate exercise.