It is now distinctly clear that the benefits of hormone administration are considerable. Further, the so-called risks vanish when both the female hormones, estrogen and progestin, are correctly used. The loss of estrogen during menopause is another natural development that is frequently best dealt with medication. Osteoporosis is a prime example of how women need extra help to compensate for their loss of this hormone. As soon as women enter menopause, the calcium in the body begins to drain from the bones, a process that cannot be corrected by taking calcium tablets. Indeed, the only known natural agent that prevents this is the female hormone.
It is also now amply clear that women possess a great, natural advantage until menopause for it reduces their risk of heart attacks and strokes, in comparison with men. This advantage, which disappears with menopause, can be restored through the administration of estrogen. Women so treated will have less life threatening vascular problems than women who are not treated by it.
As for the cancer problem associated with estrogen use, the best studies reveal that endometrial cancer does not increase — and indeed, may be reduced — when estrogen and progestin are given in cyclic fashion. The same can be said of breast cancer, with the possible exception in women whose families have a very high incidence of this disease. In women with the usual family background, however, it now seems likely that breast cancer may even be slightly less prevalent when there is proper hormone treatment.
Other advantages of estrogen therapy also have to be considered: Atrophy of the genital tract through a lack of estrogen in women may lead not only to sexual difficulties but to an increase in the unpleasant condition known as stress incontinence. In this situation, laughing, coughing or rises in pressure within the abdomen may lead to the forcing out of urine, which puts the woman in a potentially, embarrassing and awkward position. Other hormonal treatments can also help correct this tendency.
Finally, many women notice that they 'feel better' when they use the female hormone, a vague description that may nevertheless describe a very true happening. In some women, there may even be a 'lifting of depression'. There are some drawbacks to estrogen-progestin therapy, including the nuisance of continued menstrual cycles and a tendency toward spotting and staining. Also, you are not a candidate for continued hormone therapy if you have large fibroids or fibrocystic breast disease.
In any event, whatever you decide about the estrogen issue, when you enter menopause, you automatically have a medical problem. As a result, your response to this necessary, inevitable transition period of life should be discussed thoroughly with your doctor.