While many women and doctors have the same opinion, that taking hormone replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms can be beneficial, there are reasons not to take these hormones. Many researchers and doctors agree that taking these synthetic hormones can have serious side effects as women age.
Some doctors feel that women, who are concerned about the health risk associated with hormone replacement therapy, should look into natural alternatives.
Doctors prescribe hormone replacement therapy in order to diminish the unpleasant side effects of menopause such as hot flashes, headaches, nausea and mood swings. While not all doctors agree over the use of HRT, most doctors about a middle of the road approach.
After they have discussed with a woman about all possible side effects and pros and cons of replacement hormones, they will allow the woman to make the decision. Most doctors will prescribe replacement hormones using the least possible dosage for the least amount of time. Women often enjoy the benefits of HRT, but there are risks, too.
Increased risk of breast cancer
Studies on women taking replacement hormones have shown that taking these prescriptions medications can increase the risk for breast cancer. This is especially true for women that are either at high risk because breast cancer is in the family or have a personal history of breast cancer. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death for women in the United States and consequently, doctors are concerned about any medication that can increase these risks.
Increased risk of endometrial cancer
There also are studies that show that taking hormone replacement therapy also increases the risk of endometrial or uterine cancer. Women taking estrogen only treatments are at a considerably greater risk of developing this form of cancer.
These hormones can lead to thickening of the uterus lining, which in turn leads to endometrial cancer. Taking progestin and estrogen as a combination will lessen the risk, but will not completely eliminate the risk of cancer.
Short-term side effects
It is bad enough that side effects from menopause need to be dealt with, but taking hormone replacement therapy can also lead to short term side effects. These side effects can include unwanted hair growth, vaginal discharge and irregular bleeding, nausea, headaches and fluid retention.
Some women also report swollen and tender breasts and weight gain after taking replacement hormones. Side effects are usually evident after taking the hormones for a few weeks and some may not show up until a few months. Some will go away on their own, while others may not.
Increased risk of blood clots
Taking replacement hormones can also give women an increase risk of blood clots, such as thrombosis. Women who have blood clots or have a strong family history of this disorder, are usually discouraged from taking hormone replacement therapy. This can also increase the risk of strokes, which is common in women in their menopause years.