Recently, a group of Australian experts has provided updated advice on the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after the menopause. Many women stopped taking hormones after alarming media reports in 2002.
Most women take hormones for short-term treatment of hot flushes, night sweats, sleep disturbance, vaginal dryness and sexual problems. In most cases, treatment is required for only 1-3 years.
The experts concluded that 'for otherwise healthy women with moderate to severe menopausal symptoms, the benefits of short-term hormone therapy are likely to outweigh the risks' from using it.
HRT can also be used for the longer-term treatment of osteoporosis when other options are not suitable.
What are the risks?
There is a small increase in the risk of breast cancer, blood clots and stroke from combined HRT (oestrogen + progestogen).
In the case of women in their sixties, 30 women in 10,000 will get breast cancer each year.
In women taking combined HRT, the risk rises to only 38 in 10,000 per year. There is no increased breast cancer risk however in the first 4-5 years of use.
Women taking oestrogen alone do not appear to have a higher breast cancer risk.
There may also be a small increase in the risk of heart disease in older women.
Each woman is different. Discuss your own circumstances with your GP and have an annual checkup while on treatment. For further info, go to www.jeanhailes.org.au.
Please note this information was correct at time of printing.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.