Short-term hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

Short-term hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the use of an estrogen-progestin combination to treat symptoms related to menopause. It is used at the lowest dose possible and for the shortest time possible to reduce or eliminate hot flashes, sleep problems, mood problems, bone loss, and skin and vaginal changes.

A woman who still has her uterus should take progestin if she is taking estrogen. This prevents the estrogen from causing endometrial (uterine) cancer. Progestin prevents the increased risk of this cancer by regulating the buildup and breakdown of the lining (endometrium) of the uterus. Women know this buildup and breakdown as monthly menstrual bleeding.

Experts have not firmly defined how long "short-term" HRT should be. While some recommend less than 1 year, most consider no more than 4 or 5 years to be reasonable, with regular checkups.

Hormone replacement therapy has been linked to slightly higher risks of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, heart attack, stroke, blood clots, and dementia. Research is ongoing to find out if low-dose, short-term HRT reduces the risks that are linked to HRT.

Last Updated: May 16, 2008

Author: Robin Parks, MS

Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology

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