Research has shown that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can increase breast cancer risk. But there are different kinds of HRT. Some HRT uses only estrogen, while other HRT treatments use both estrogen and progesterone (known as combined HRT).
A large study showed that breast cancer risk increased when combination HRT was used by menopausal and post-menopausal women. Breast cancer risk didn't increase when the women used estrogen-only HRT. But (and this is a BIG but), when breast cancer was diagnosed in women who got estrogen-only HRT, the cancer was more aggressive, which means it was higher grade and faster growing. In December 2006, researchers said a sharp decline in breast cancer cases since 2003 was due in part to millions of women stopping their use of combination HRT.
The concerns about HRT raising breast cancer risk are very real. But the side effects of menopause can be excruciating for some women and drastically reduce their quality of life. If you have severe menopausal symptoms, you have to weigh the benefits of HRT against the risks. Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of HRT and about the results of this study. Together, you can decide if HRT or another treatment for menopause might be right for you.
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