Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT, is the use of the hormones estrogen and progesterone to treat symptoms associated with aging and menopause in women. When women reach menopause, falling hormone levels can result in symptoms like hot flashes and conditions like osteoporosis.
What Does Estrogen Do?
Estrogen helps the uterus prepare for pregnancy implantation, but it also helps your body use calcium, and it helps maintain adequate levels of “good” HDL cholesterol in your body. If you still have a uterus, then you should not take unopposed estrogen, as this increases your risk of cancer. You should take a combination of estrogen and progesterone (or progestin, the synthetic form of progesterone.)
Risks of Estrogen Therapy
A recent study just revealed the association of HRT with ovarian cancer. There have been other studies that show women who take HRT have an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, blood clots, and breast cancer. The largest study to date, the Women’s Health Initiative, found that long-term use of HRT carries greater risks than benefits. In fact, the study was abandoned because of the increased risk experienced by women in the treatment arm of the study. It appears that the type of therapy and time frame of treatment can affect these risks. Six million women in the US and the United Kingdom take hormone therapy despite these risks.
Ovarian Cancer and HRT
Ovarian cancer is deadly, and the risk of ovarian cancer appears to be increased with both combination HRT and estrogen only HRT, although the risk is only 1/1000 women who take HRT for 5 years after the age of 50.
Warning signs of ovarian cancer include abdominal bloating and an increase in the girth of the stomach, and may include pain or cramping in the back or abdomen, unusual bleeding, or nausea. Unfortunately, women with ovarian cancer often don’t experience symptoms until the cancer is advanced, which makes it more difficult to treat.
When To Avoid Hormone Replacement Therapy
If you have a family history of ovarian or breast cancer, heart disease, blood clots, or stroke, or have other risk factors for these diseases, then you should probably not begin hormone replacement therapy for your menopausal symptoms. Women with a current or past history of ovarian, breast, or endometrial cancer, or blood clots in the legs or lungs, should not take hormone replacement therapy. Women with a history of liver disease or stroke should also avoid hormone replacement therapy.
Important Studies Have Shown Clear Link to Breast Cancer
In addition to the recent study linking HRT with ovarian cancer, the Woman’s Health Initiative studied 164,000 women and found a greater risk of breast cancer in women who used HRT. A study in Denmark followed 29,000 women and found that women on HRT were had twice as many ductal carcinomas (a type of breast cancer) and FOUR times as many lobular breast cancers as women who did not take HRT. A Swiss study found women who were followed for 25 years had a 7 times greater rate of invasive lobular breast cancer with high use of HRT. The “Million Woman Study” in Great Britain found twice as many women with all types of breast cancer in the group taking combination HRT when compared to women who did not take HRT.
Commonly Prescribed HRT
Femhrt, Climara Pro, and CombiPatch are two hormone drug products, and Estradiol, Norethindrone Acetate and Levo-Norgestrel are all commonly prescribed hormone replacement medications.
If you or a loved one has experienced breast, ovarian, or endometrial cancer after regular use of hormone replacement therapy, call one of our top Chicago medical malpractice lawyers today at 312-527-4500 to see if you have a legal claim for compensation for your injuries.