LIVING HEALTHY – DR. ROBIN MILLERIn 2002, the Women’s Health Initiative study found that the risks of Premarin and Provera treatment for menopause outweighed the benefits. Since that time, women have been looking for alternative ways to treat thier menopausal symptoms.

Bioidentical hormones have taken the place of Premarin and Provera.  Bioidentical are so named because they are identical to our natural hormones.  The big question is, are they safe? The answer is yes and no.  There have been no long-term studies in the United States so we have to look to Europe for some answers.

A study of nearly 100,000 women in France found that those on estrogen alone had a 30% increased risk of developing breast cancer.  When estrogen was combined with natural progesterone there was no increased risk for developing breast cancer. They also found that when estrogen was given in the form of a patch or gel there was no increased risk for blood clots. This may also decrease the risk for stroke or heart attack.

Most physicians would agree that treatment of symptomatic women in early menopause is relatively safe.  Before starting hormones, it is important to make sure that your mammogram is negative and that they are done yearly. In addition, your risk factors should be reviewed. For instance, I am very reluctant to start women on hormones when they have a mother or sister with a history of breast cancer.

There are some providers out there who will not give women hormones under any circumstance.  They are either men who have never had to live through it with their female friends or partners or women who haven’t gotten there yet.  If you are suffering and would like hormonal help, there are empathetic, understanding providers out there.

Find them.  Have a full discussion so that you understand the benefits and the risks. We are all different.  Some women may only need them for months and others may need them for years. There is no need to suffer, but make sure you are comfortable with your decision and that each year you re-evaluate your need for hormones.

Stay tuned. Next blog: The Non-hormonal Treatment For Menopause.

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