Menopause is a natural occurrence in which a woman’s ovaries cease producing estrogen, usually in their early fifties. Post-menopause is diagnosed when a woman has not menstruated for one year and marks the end of the reproductive period of her life.
Perimenopause is diagnosed when the menstrual cycles vary in frequency and length indicating a woman’s cycle is ending, and may be associated with psychological, emotional, and/ or physical symptoms. These disturbances are due to a declining ovarian production of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone that may be periodic or continuous.
The history of hormone replacement in women has seen many swings in popularity over the past few decades. In 1991 the National Institutes of Health (N.I.H.) launched the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study involving about 161,000 healthy postmenopausal women aged 50-79 years with an average age of 63 years. The study was designed to test the effects of hormone therapy on heart disease, bone fractures, breast cancer, and colon cancer. One group of women who had undergone a hysterectomy received oral estrogen (Premarin) alone [estrogen replacement therapy or ERT].
A second group received a combination of Premarin and progesterone (PremPro) [combination hormone replacement therapy or HRT]. A third group received a placebo, which contained no hormones. In 2002 the study was stopped because the Provera group was associated with a slight increase in the incidence of breast cancer, heart attack, stroke, and blood clots.
Millions of women in the U.S. stopped their hormones out of fear and they entered into “hot-flash hell”. A recent careful re-analysis and follow-up review of the data has revealed that the actual risks of breast cancer, stroke, and heart disease were not increased over time and were, in fact, decreased; especially in women who were perimenopausal when they initiated hormone therapy.
Following years of fear and confusion regarding the risks and benefits of estrogen replacement therapy, medical studies have now clearly established its safety and its health benefits. In March 2012 the North American Menopause Society released a statement that supports these findings, stating that combination hormone therapy (both estrogen and progesterone) initiated around the time of menopause is safe.
Gunn Center of Fullerton, CA offers some interesting and useful information on menopause and hormone therapy. If you would like more information, contact Dr. Gordon C. Gunn MD at 714-912-2211 or visit www.gordongunnmd.com to schedule an appointment today.
Dr. Gordon Gunn proudly serves Fullerton and all surrounding areas.