Wednesday Bubble: HRT – Ask the Hard Questions

Posted by on May 5, 2010 in HRT | 3 comments

Your doctor has just recommended that you try hormone replacement therapy, better known as HRT. You’ve heard the horror stories about increased risk for breast cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, heart disease…yikes!  And yet, you are flashing like nobody’s business, sweating like you’ve just run a marathon and moody as all hell. What should you do?

Ask the hard questions.

Anyone who reads this blogs knows that I am not a huge fan of hormone replacement therapy. There are numerous reason for my personal biases, ranging from the inherent health risks to the belief that menopause has been treated as a disease for far too long and that the paradigm needs to change. These reasons represent the initial driving force behind this blog, which is to explore viable and evidence-based alternatives to HRT and discover strategies for dealing with the emotional and physical aspects of midlife and the transition in more positive and empowering ways.

However, I also support  any woman’s decision to use HRT. Your life is your life and only you can control the decisions that feel right for you.

Nevertheless, it’s critical to ask the hard questions.

So, what do I mean by that?

Medications are meant to heal, sometimes even cure what ails. But medications can be dangerous if they are misused, overused, or inappropriately prescribed. It can be confusing, because who can you trust to deliver the truth? And where should you turn when the media can’t agree on the story, when doctors are misinformed or too busy to take the time to thoroughly vet a patient or when one internet source states one thing and the other, another? What’s more, what’s at stake?

So, I’d like to put forth some initial questions for your consideration.

For your doctor

  • Why is your doctor recommending HRT? What does he/she believe it is going to help? What are your personal risks, based on your current health status, family history, genetics and disease profile? Are you a smoker, drinker? have heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, etc?
  • Does your doctor have any personal investment in HRT, i.e., has he/she done research on HRT on behalf of companies who manufacture it?
  • What is the risk/benefit ratio for you? Are the risks higher than the benefits or visa versa?
  • How long does the doctor expect that you will need to take HRT? How does this affect your risk/benefit ratio?
  • Has the doctor had any patients who have had bad experiences with HRT? Would he/she be willing to discuss those experiences generally?

About your information source

  • What is the source of information about HRT? Is it/he/she reputable? Have you taken the time to follow the trail and looked into its/her/his personal interest in HRT?
  • Is he/she/his/her company or association sponsored by manufacturers who have a financial interest in HRT?
  • How accurate is the news report? Do you thoroughly understand the news report? Does the news report seem like it has a bias? Has it throughly explained the study that it is basing its information on? (Gary Schwitzer’s HealthNewsReview provides excellent guidance on reading health news and what you should be looking for.)
  • Who sponsors the website you are getting my information from? Is it industry sponsored? What is the background of the people who are writing the information that is highlighted on that website?

I am sure I’ve missed some important considerations or questions but these represent great starting points.I’d love to hear your thought. Or if you feel that I’ve missed the boat entirely.

Always…if you want the truth, you’ve got to ask the hard questions.


  1. 5-5-2010

    This is a hard question I continue to avoid because I’ve been on HRT for a number of years. I didn’t go on HRT for menopause symptoms but to boost my estrogen during ovarian failure in an effort to become pregnant. Now almost 20 years later I’m contemplating a more natural approach. I must admit, though, that I’m very apprehensive about it.

  2. 10-28-2010

    You are so right about asking the hard questions. It seems that many women are more than willing to go fill a prescription and not just for HRT but for other ailments, before really getting all the facts. Sometimes, doctors can be wrong also and you have to be informed and educate yourself. Don’t follow blindly and then later regret your decisions.

    • 10-28-2010

      Holly, no matter what it is, HRT or not, we have to do our homework and then cover out bases. Regret is fine, if it can be fixed.


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