HRT can help women at menopausal stage to cope with various problems like hot flashes etc. But there are several side effects to think about. According to recent reports, HRT is connected with a 110 % increase in breast cancer risk among smokers, a 41 % rise in stroke risk and a 22 % increase in cardiovascular problems.
But some doctors say these findings - from a halted long-term study- don't apply to most. Only older women were tested - with a HRT regimen not recommended today.
''Unfortunately, many women who are good candidates for hormone therapy are just terrified of hormone therapy,'' Women's Health Specialist Holly Thacker, M.D., of The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, tells Ivanhoe.
Yet Dr. Thacker says women don't have to be afraid. New studies show short-term, low-dose hormone therapy can relieve symptoms like hot flashes. And as long as you don't take it for more than 10 years, it does not appear to increase breast cancer risk.
''Not all women need hormones. Some women have too many hormones. Some women have just the right amount. And then there's some that don't have enough,'' Dr. Thacker says. ''That really has to be sorted out.''
Once it is sorted out, many women, like Nancy Tyrell, can feel like their old selves for many more years. With HRT - she's been able to claim back her love life. She says, ''It's the best that it's ever been!''
Women with a history of breast cancer or blood clots should avoid hormone therapy. Alternatives to HRT include soy, herbals like black cohosh and localized hormone rings. Many doctors now recommend starting HRT during menopause and slowly tapering off to no treatment.