How long can I safely stay on my hormone therapy?

I am frequently asked the question, “How long can I safely stay on my hormone therapy? and I usually ask the woman, How long do you want to continue to feel well?” In all seriousness, there are no long-term studies that enable me to answer this question. Taking hormones less than five years seems to carry very little risk. However, the longer you take hormones the higher your risk.

The North American Menopause Society and the Endocrine Society have addressed this issue. They recommend that all women be informed of potential risks and benefits and given the lowest effective dose consistent with treatment goals. If a woman wishes to continue HRT for an extended period of time, this is acceptable if she and her physician believe that the benefits of continuing HRT outweigh the risks.

A woman’s decision to initiate or continue HRT must be based on her own unique circumstances and risks. Many of the available studies have not attempted to evaluate the differences in risks among the different HRT regiments. However, new studies are beginning to appear that help sort out the risks for the different types of HRT. In a sense, the Baby Boomers are the “test generation” that started HRT in larger numbers. We will be the first to see the consequences, positive and negative, of being on HRT for 20, 30, and 40 years.

Excerpt from “Outliving Your Ovaries” © 2012 by Marina Johnson MD. Dr. Johnson has no financial conflicts of interest or ties to any pharmaceutical company. Her only objective is determining the most effective, safest therapy for patients.

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