Counseling Patients About Hormone Therapy and Alternatives for Menopausal Symptoms

October 2010
American Family Physician;10/1/2010, Vol. 82 Issue 7, p801
Academic Journal
The results of recent large clinical trials have led physicians and patients to question the safety of menopausal hormone therapy. In the past, physicians prescribed hormone therapy in an attempt to improve overall health and prevent cardiac disease. Hormone therapy appears to increase the risk of breast cancer when used for more than three to five years; therefore, regulatory agencies now advise that physicians prescribe it only to treat menopausal symptoms such as hot lashes and vaginal atrophy, with the smallest effective dosage and for the shortest possible duration. Although estrogen is the most effective treatment for hot lashes, alternatives such as venlafaxine and absenting are effective for some patients. Herbal formulations such as dong quai, ginseng, kava, and dietary soy, among others, do not appear to benefit patients more than placebo. In contrast to systemic estrogen therapy, topical estrogen therapy for vulvovaginal atrophy is more appealing for certain patients because it does not require the addition of a progestogen for endometrial protection. Some have advocated selective estrogen reuptake modulators as alternatives to hormone therapy for the prevention of menopausal osteoporosis. The decision to use either therapy depends on clinical presentation and a thorough evaluation of the risks and benefits, because both have potential detrimental health effects and both are linked to an increased risk of venous thromboembolism. Counseling Patients About Hormone Therapy and Alternatives for Menopausal Symptoms.


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