To help control the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness and extreme mood fluctuations, some women choose to take hormone therapy.

But not all women should use hormone therapy. Make the decision to try hormone therapy only after talking with your doctor. Carefully consider your own personal risks and whether the benefits of hormone therapy might outweigh those risks.

Among the possible risks of taking hormone therapy are:

  • Pulmonary embolism, a blockage in one of the arteries in your lungs
  • Deep vein thrombosis, a condition where blood clots form in veins deep within your body, often in your legs
  • Stroke
  • Heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease
  • Breast cancer

Hormone therapy may provide these benefits:

  • Symptom relief
  • Protection for your bones, including a reduced risk of broken bones and osteoporosis

If you start hormone therapy early in menopause, other possible benefits include:

  • Decreased risk of heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease
  • Decreased risk of dementia
  • Decreased risk of stroke

The balance of risks and benefits of hormone therapy for you may be influenced by a number of factors:

  • Your age
  • How long it's been since menopause began
  • What symptoms you're experiencing
  • Whether your menopause occurred spontaneously or as a result of surgery
  • Whether you're experiencing early menopause
  • Your family history of diseases such as heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease, thrombosis or cancer
  • Your personal history of cancer, including atypical hyperplasia and lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) of the breast
  • Your risk of heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease, thrombosis and osteoporosis

If you make the decision to take hormone therapy, your doctor will prescribe the lowest dose needed to control your symptoms. You'll take hormone therapy only as long as you need it for symptom relief.

March 21, 2014