What is menopausal hormone therapy?
For many years, women have relied on hormone therapy to treat the symptoms associated with menopause, such as sweating and hot flashes. This is known as menopausal hormone therapy, and it is sometimes abbreviated as MHT or HT. However, there has been increasing concerns about menopause and hormone-related cancers.
In the past, many medical professionals and their patients thought that MHT could not only ease the symptoms of menopause but had important health benefits. However, recent studies have made many medical experts conclude that the risks of hormone therapy sometimes outweigh the health benefits.
Menopause and Cancer Risk
Two major factors are associated with an increased risk of cancer after menopause. These includes:
- Increase exposure to natural hormones like estrogen, which elevates the risk of breast cancer and uterine cancer.
- Increased frequency of ovulations, which elevates the risk of ovarian cancer
As one menstruates longer, she has more ovulations, which means she is exposed to more hormones for a longer period. Therefore, a woman who begins menstruating before the age of 12 years and starts menopause after the age of 55 years has a high risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
Research has shown that taking birth control pills (or oral contraceptives) can reduce the risk of these cancers. This is because oral contraceptives can stop ovulation for a given period. Discuss with your doctor about the benefits and risks of birth control pills and your risk of these cancers.
Menopausal Hormone Therapy and Cancer Risk
Although menopause itself is not linked with an increased risk of cancer, the rates of breast cancer, and many other types, do increase over time. Moreover, some of the medications used to ease menopausal symptoms can elevate or lower an individual’s risk of cancer.
Evidence shows that increased exposure to female hormones (either produced by the body or taken in drug form) can increase the risk of breast cancer. It is unclear whether hormonal therapy with estrogen only, which is often used by women who have undergone a hysterectomy, can elevate the risk of breast cancer.
If you and your doctor decide to ease the symptoms of menopause cancer via MHT, bear in mind that it is medication and like any other medication it is advisable to use it for the recommended amount of time and at the lowest dose required. All women should see a doctor immediately if they observe any virginal bleeding because it could be a sign of endometrial cancer.
If your cancer is not related to hormones, your doctor can often prescribe hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to ease the symptoms of menopause and protect vital body organs. Otherwise, your doctor can prescribe medicines to ease sweating and hot flashes to help with virginal dryness. To learn more, be sure talk to your doctor about menopause and hormone-related cancers.