HRT and Ovarian Cancer

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A study published in UK medical journal, 'The Lancet' looks at short-term use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and the possible increased risk of ovarian cancer.

Hormone Replacement Therapy Pills
The findings would appear to suggest that taking HRT for the menopause, even for just a few years, is associated with an increased risk of developing the two most common types of ovarian cancer.

Lead researcher Sir Richard Peto told the BBC that any claim that there is no risk with short courses of HRT "simply isn't true".

The Menopause & HRT

The menopause can cause various physical symptoms such as:
  • Hot flushes and night sweats
  • Lack of sex drive
  • Vaginal dryness and pain, itching or discomfort during sex
  • Palpitations
  • Headaches
  • Mood changes, such as depression, anxiety or tiredness
  • Sleeping problems, such as insomnia
  • Urinary tract infections such as cystitis
HRT replaces female hormones that are at a lower level as you approach the menopause and may ease symptoms.

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is often difficult to diagnose as the symptoms are similar to irritable bowel syndrome and other conditions.

The charity, Ovarian Cancer Action sets out ovarian cancer symptoms to watch out for:
  • Persistent stomach pain
  • Persistent bloating
  • Finding it difficult to eat or feeling full quickly
  • Needing to wee more often
Other symptoms you may notice include:
  • Back pain
  • Changes in your bowel habits (diarrhoea or constipation)
  • Feeling tired all the time
For more information visit: www.ovarian.org.uk/about-ovarian-cancer/

In response to the study, Dr Clare McKenzie, of the Royal College Of Gynaecology (RCOG) said:

“This study does not provide evidence that HRT is the cause of ovarian cancer. Millions of women are currently taking or are considering HRT, to treat significant menopausal symptoms that cause serious distress to their quality of life, will be confused or anxious by this information.

“HRT, like any medication or treatment, has risks and benefits. The very small risk that this study highlights must be put in context - in that for 1,000 women who use HRT for 5 years from around the age of 50, there will only be one extra case of ovarian cancer.

The research does not to take into account the fact that some women will be at increased risk of developing ovarian cancer because of other contributing risk factors such as their family history, and inherited genes and Dr Heather Currie, Chairman Elect for the British Menopause Society (BMS) and spokesperson for the RCOG said:

“While ovarian cancer is a serious disease, this study does not prove causation… [and it] is important to emphasise that the absolute risk is extremely small”. Dr Currie goes on to say that “Women who are currently taking HRT should not be concerned by this report. HRT is the most effective treatment for symptoms of the menopause and when HRT is individually tailored, it provides more benefits than risks for the majority of women under the age of 60, and for many beyond that age.”

Further information can be found here: Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.


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