Monday 16 September 2019

Eilish O'Regan: 'Women must weigh up trade-off in benefits and risks of treatment'

 

HRT has been the subject of various research studies since then but the latest findings published in the 'Lancet' takes the risk of breast cancer a step further. It said it is double what was previously thought (stock photo)
HRT has been the subject of various research studies since then but the latest findings published in the 'Lancet' takes the risk of breast cancer a step further. It said it is double what was previously thought (stock photo)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

For many years hormone replacement therapy (HRT) was seen as the elixir of youth for women.

Some women who had reached menopause declared: "I'm 50, but I feel 20."

They had found treatment for a fall in two hormones - oestrogen and progesterone - which can have profound effects throughout the body.

HRT alleviated uncomfortable symptoms of hot flushes, migraines, disrupted sleep, mood changes and depression.

All that changed when a major study released nearly two decades ago said it could raise the risk of breast cancer and heart disease.

It led to a dramatic drop in usage and new guidelines to take the "lowest effective dose should be used for the shortest time".

It has been the subject of various research studies since then but the latest findings published in the 'Lancet' takes the risk of breast cancer a step further. It said it is double what was previously thought.

Women in this country who are taking it would already have been advised of the risks and the benefits by their doctor. But many will now wonder if the pluses still outweigh the negatives.

Doctors pointed out yesterday the risk is still low.

In western countries, 6.3pc of women of average weight will develop breast cancer over the 20 years from the age of 50 without any hormone therapy.

The study found that rose to 8.3pc among women taking the most common HRT combination - oestrogen plus daily progestagen.

For women who discuss taking HRT the decision they come to will be a trade-off.

They will weigh up whether it is worth the associated risk in return for quality of life and relief from distressing symptoms.

Ireland's medicines' watchdog, the HPRA, said it confirms a slightly higher risk of breast cancer in women using HRT for longer than one year. It may continue to be higher for 10 years after stopping HRT. It is seen with all types except for HRT used directly in the vagina.

It is important that women and doctors consider it alongside other risks and benefits of using HRT. The lowest effective dose for the shortest duration should be used and women should have regular check-ups as recommended.

Irish Independent

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