Hormone therapy (HT) refers to
the use of
for the treatment of
Estrogen and progestin combinations (pills or tablets)
|Premphase, Prempro||conjugated estrogens/medroxyprogesterone|
Transdermal combination preparations (a patch placed on the skin that continuously releases estrogen and progestin)
Oral progestin (pills or tablets; used along with an estrogen-only preparation)
Progestin intrauterine device (IUD; used along with an estrogen-only preparation)
Estrogen-progestin hormone therapy, or HT, is recommended
for all women with a uterus who choose to take estrogen. Using estrogen without
progestin greatly increases your risk of
. Taking progestin with estrogen
eliminates this increased risk.
How It Works
HT increases the estrogen and progestin
levels in your body. There are several ways to take HT,
including continuous and cyclic along with higher-dose and low-dose.
Combining progestin with estrogen:
- Protects against endometrial cancer (which can
develop with estrogen-only therapy).
- Is not needed for women who
have no uterus.
- May trigger monthly withdrawal bleeding when
progestin is used periodically (such as in cyclic HT).
Why It Is Used
The estrogen in hormone therapy is
used by some postmenopausal women to increase estrogen levels. This helps
and perimenopausal symptoms, such as hot
flashes and sleep problems.
But HT slightly increases risks of
some serious health problems. In a small number of women, HT
may increase the risk of blood clots, stroke,
heart disease, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or dementia. Risk varies based on when you start HT in menopause and how long you take it. Short-term use of hormone therapy in early menopause has less risk than when it is started later in menopause.
Because of the risks from HT, many experts recommend that HT be used for:
- Short-term treatment of menopause symptoms. HT effectively relieves menopause symptoms for most women. Women who decide that HT benefits outweigh their risks are advised to use the lowest effective dose for as short a time as possible. For most women, menopause symptoms naturally improve within a few years' time, making long-term symptom treatment unnecessary.
- Osteoporosis prevention and treatment, in select cases. Most experts recommend that long-term HT only be considered for women with a high osteoporosis risk. In this case, estrogen's bone-protecting benefit may outweigh the risks from taking HT. Women are now encouraged to consider all possible osteoporosis treatments and to compare their risks and benefits.