Is HRT Safe?

HRT Safe
Should you or shouldn’t you take HRT? It’s a personal choice, but one thing you shouldn’t do is pay any attention to the many myths surrounding the subject. We asked Dr Stephanie Goodwin, a London-based GP and menopause specialist, to clear things up once and for all.

The most common myth is that HRT causes breast cancer. What’s the truth?

I get asked this a lot by women in my clinic. Is HRT safe? This major worry has been very much discussed since a flawed study in 2002. This study has been extensively reviewed since and the current view now is that HRT does not cause breast cancer but may promote the growth of cancer cells which are already present.

In this respect the latest research found no link between breast cancer and the oestrogen only HRT pill and a small risk in the combined HRT pill – however this risk is related to how long the pill is taken for and reduces once HRT treatment is stopped.

Do you put on weight with HRT?

No, you don’t. There is no evidence about this, and it has more to do with coincidental timing. Menopause occurs at an age where your metabolism naturally slows down and hormonal changes will mean that weight will settle around your abdomen. At this point weight gain is likely but not mandatory!

Do you need to stop taking HRT after five years?

No, you don’t. On the lowest effective dose you can take HRT as long as necessary and certainly younger women should not stop taking it before they are 50 years old.

Is there a link between HRT and increased risk of heart attacks?

Not if HRT  is taken before the age of 60. Whilst HRT in tablet form can cause a small risk of stroke or DVT, this can be avoided if it is taken in the form of patches or gels. The risk may be higher if you start HRT after the age of 60 and so a careful risk assessment needs to be made.

Does being on The Pill have the same risks as HRT?

Whilst being similar hormones, HRT doses are lower and less potent so the effects are not the same.

Can HRT cause blood clots?

This myth relates to HRT in tablet form but if you are low risk and healthy, the added effect of HRT is very small.

At the end of the day, is HRT just delaying the menopause – isn’t it better to skip the HRT and get the whole thing over and done with?

There are both short and long term benefits to HRT.

Firstly it makes menopause symptoms less severe and more manageable at a time when women are likely to be busy juggling both families and a career. Why not feel happy and healthy with a good quality of life for as long as possible?

Secondly when you are ready to stop you are doing so gradually so your body can adjust slowly – in fact many people never get recurring symptoms.

Read more from Dr Stephanie Goodwin and find out about her clinic, at www.drstephaniegoodwin.co.uk

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