The vast majority of my patients who I see in the general practice setting with menopausal symptoms are very positive that they do not want to take hormone replacement therapy (HRT). They tell me that they would prefer to take the "natural route" and they "do not want to meddle with nature" or, most commonly, that "HRT causes breast cancer".
What they often do not understand is that for the vast majority of women under the age of 60, the benefits of HRT outweigh any risks. There are numerous studies and guidelines which support this statement. I hope this article will dispel some of the popular myths regarding HRT.
Myth 1: You have to wait for your symptoms to be really bad or even unbearable before your doctor can give you HRT
Many women delay going to their doctor and asking for treatment as they feel that they are wasting their doctor's time and they should wait until their symptoms are really bad. This is not the case as HRT will help even if you have mild symptoms. In addition, there is increasing evidence that the earlier HRT is started, the more you will get protection from osteoporosis and heart disease.
Myth 2: HRT delays the menopause
Many women avoid taking HRT as they think that when they stop taking it they will then have their menopause then. Any symptoms you might experience after stopping HRT are the menopausal symptoms you would have experienced even if you had never taken HRT. Without HRT, many women have menopausal symptoms for more than a decade and some women still have hot flushes when they are over 75 years old.
Myth 3: You have to stop HRT after five years
Many doctors try and encourage women to stop taking HRT after five years. However, there is actually no good scientific reason for this. Each woman needs to be assessed individually for the time they need to take HRT for. The length of time you take HRT for is an individual choice and depends on your individual risks and benefits. I have some patients in their 80s who still take HRT. If you are under 51 years of age then you need to take HRT until you are at least 51 years, regardless of the age you are when you start taking it.