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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 October, 2003, 23:55 GMT 00:55 UK
Studies 'put many women off HRT'
HRT has major benefits as well as some risks
Many women are scared off hormone replacement therapy by studies into its long-term effects, research suggests.

A survey shows 58% of women stopped taking HRT after the results of a major trial were published in 2002.

That study, from New Zealand, suggested long-term use of some types of HRT increased the risk of breast cancer and heart disease.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, experts urged women not to suddenly stop treatment and to discuss their options with their GP.

Millions of women around the world take HRT. It relieves many of the symptoms of the menopause, including hot flushes, and protects against osteoporosis.

Possible risks

However, a growing number of studies have raised concerns about its long-term effects.

Earlier this week, some of the UK's leading experts issued a statement saying that while there are risks associated with taking HRT there are also major benefits.

The general advice is to take HRT when it is necessary and to take it for the relief of menopausal symptoms only.
Robin Parsons,
Menopause Amarant Trust
The British Government issued advice to doctors in August telling them to balance the individual risks and benefits of HRT when deciding whether or not to prescribe it to women.

They have also been told to reassess their decision at least once a year, while women have been urged to discuss their concerns with their GP instead of just stopping treatment.

Researchers at Wellington School of Medicine and Health Science carried out a survey of 776 women who were taking HRT when the 2002 research was published.

That study, part of the Women's Health Initiative, caused a storm when its findings were released.

It confirmed that over the long-term, HRT can increase the risk of breast cancer, heart disease, stroke and blood clots.

The New Zealand researchers found that 58% of women stopped taking their tablets when these findings were made public.

Of these, 18% or 132 women re-started treatment while 291 or 40% did not.

Older women and those who had been on HRT for more than five years were most likely to have stopped taking it.

The survey showed that most women discussed their treatment options with their GP.

In an accompanying editorial, Frances Griffiths, a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Warwick, said it was important patients discussed any concerns with their doctor.

But she said women should weigh up the benefits of HRT as well as the risks.

In addition, she said doctors should raise the issue with women on a regular basis in case their situation or priorities change.

"The decision to take or not to take hormone replacement therapy should be seen as a provisional decision negotiated for a particular time and place and then reviewed.

"This is important for women taking hormone replacement to relieve symptoms and to prevent osteoporosis: individuals change, priorities change, evidence changes and society changes."

'Panic stricken'

Robin Parsons, manager of the Menopause Amarant Trust which runs not-for-profit clinics and a helpline for women going through the menopause, backed the study findings.

"Many women are panic stricken after they read the headlines in the newspapers," she told BBC News Online.

"They tend to stop their treatment suddenly, most times without consulting their doctors. It is a big problem."

Ms Parsons urged women to always seek medical advice when it comes to HRT.

She added: "The general advice is to take HRT when it is necessary and to take it for the relief of menopausal symptoms only.

"It should be a short term thing rather than something women take over the long term."

HRT safety probe launched
04 Sep 03  |  Health
HRT slump after scare
10 Jan 03  |  Health

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