For decades, women have used hormone therapy to ease symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and sweating. This is called menopausal hormone therapy, and you may see it abbreviated as HT or MHT. You may also hear it described as hormone replacement therapy (HRT), postmenopausal hormone therapy (PHT), or postmenopausal hormones (PMH).
In the past, many doctors and their patients believed that MHT didnt just help with hot flashes and other symptoms it had important health benefits. But well-conducted studies have led many doctors to conclude that the risks of MHT often outweigh the benefits.
This document discusses only how MHT can affect a womans risk of getting certain cancers. It does not discuss other possible risks of MHT such as heart disease or stroke.
You can use this information when you talk to your doctor about whether MHT is right for you.
Menopause is the time in a womans life when the ovaries stop working and she stops having menstrual periods for good. Menopause is sometimes called the change of life, or the change.
The ovaries stop releasing eggs and making the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone. In the months or years leading up to natural menopause, menstrual periods may become less frequent and irregular, and hormone levels may go up and down. This time is called perimenopause or the menopausal transition. Since periods can become less frequent during this time, it can be hard to know when they have actually stopped (and you have gone through menopause) until you look back at a later time.
Women who have their ovaries removed by surgery (oophorectomy) or whose ovaries stop working for other reasons go through menopause, too, but much more suddenly (without the menopausal transition).
Women who have had their uterus removed (hysterectomy) but still have their ovaries stop having periods, but they dont really go through menopause until their ovaries stop working. This is often determined based on symptoms, but your doctor can tell for certain by testing your blood for levels of certain hormones. Hormones made by the pituitary gland called luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) help regulate the ovaries before menopause. When levels of estrogen get lower during menopause, the levels of FSH and LH go up. High levels of FSH and LH, along with low levels of estrogen, can be used to diagnose menopause. Blood tests for these may be helpful in a woman who has had her uterus removed.
Some drugs can turn off the ovaries and cause menstrual periods to stop for a time. Although this is not the same as menopause, it can lead to many of the same symptoms.
Most of the symptoms of menopause are linked to lower estrogen levels. Some symptoms hot flashes and night sweats, for instance tend to fade away at some point, whether or not they are treated. Other problems that start after menopause, like dryness and thinning of vaginal tissues and bone thinning, tend to get worse over time.
Menopausal Hormone Therapy and Cancer Risk
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