- Question from Vera: I'm only 45, yet I'm already having hot flashes. Breast cancer is in my family, but I've never had it. Can I take estrogen?
Patricia A. Ganz, M.D.
Symptoms of menopause can begin in the 40s, several years before a woman stops menstruating, and we call this the perimenopause.
During this time, it is common to have sweats and hot flashes, and these are early warning signs of menopause. The best way to handle these symptoms if you cannot sleep or are uncomfortable is to take estrogen to relieve the symptoms. At the present time, it appears that short-term use of estrogen and progesterone which is often given with it—short-term being 2 or 3 years—does not seem to lead to an increased risk of breast cancer. However, if you need to take hormones for a long time, for 5 or more years, then you could increase your risk of breast cancer.
- Marisa Weiss, M.D. This increased risk for long-term users is not a big increase; it is a relatively small increase. If you choose to take estrogen replacement, you do need to be followed carefully for your overall health, as well as your breast health. When you do follow a program of early detection, breast cancers tend to be detected earlier, which is when they are most effectively treated. That is why women on HRT, who develop breast cancer, tend to be diagnosed with earlier stage breast cancer.
- Patricia A. Ganz, M.D. At this time, we do not have good information about women with a family history of breast cancer using HRT compared to women without a family history.
The Ask-the-Expert Online Conference called Quality of Life featured Patricia A. Ganz, M.D., and Marisa Weiss, M.D. answering your questions about how breast cancer can affect physical, emotional, social, and sexual aspects of your life.
Editor's Note: This conference took place in October 2001.
The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.
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