Today, Many women live beyond age 80 and as a result may be postmenopausal for over 30 years. Each woman has a unique range of symptoms. Hormone therapy has been widely prescribed since the early 60s despite limited research to relieve unpleasant menopausal symptoms. However, alarms were raised in the 1990′s that have led to a whole battery of new research on hormone therapy that continues to this day.
So what is the current status of hormonal therapy as a treatment option? Researchers now know that the timing, dosage, path of metabolism, mode of delivery, drug combination, and years of use all matter and need to be measured against each woman’s risk profile. New genetic and molecular tools enable us to determine how individuals may respond differently to the same medications and hormones. Doctors have better ways to determine risks for the chronic conditions of aging and how they may be impacted when estrogen drops during menopause. Non-hormonal options are slowly coming on the market, but these, too, may need the test-of-time to determine if they work without side effects and are not always a better alternative.
Doctors do know much more today that they did when hormone therapy was first used and have begun “personalizing” the treatment approach to relieving menopause symptoms as new findings are published. Individualization is key, and research continues as new diagnostic tools for efficacy and risk are discovered. In the meantime, women should realize that ALL medicines we take—from aspirin to antibiotics to cold medicine–carry different levels of risk for each person. In fact, many medications beyond hormone therapy, have been studied primarily in males!
In many cases, hormone therapy, is a relatively safe and effective drug for some women who are experiencing severe symptoms. Learn all you can about your own risk profiles, assess the severity of your symptoms, and find a clinician who keeps up on the latest research to discuss options. An excellent on-line tool to help you assess your risk and explore the latest interventions can be found at menopausenu.org