Estrogen is administered in drug therapy for several reasons. To replace female hormones after menopause or following a total abdominal hysterectomy with removal of the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes.
At the time of menopause, the ovaries stop producing female hormones. In response to this, the pituitary gland produces large amounts of gonadotropins. This results in the physical problems associated with menopause such as night sweats, hot flashes.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) reduces these problems.
Other menopausal difficulties:
After menopause, estrogen may be used to prevent bone thinning and brittleness and spontaneous fractures. Estrogen has also been used in the treatment of breast cancer in older women and prostate cancer in men.
What are the side effects of HRT?
The most common is weight gain, GI disturbances and skin pigmentation. Long term use of estrogen replacement carries and increase risk of cancer of the endometrium ( the uterine lining) and some types of breast cancers.
Education on HRT:
1. Explore the risks of taking estrogen
2. Inform your MD of a family history of cancer, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, or osteoporosis
3. Have regular physical exams including mammogram and PAP smear every 6 months to a year during treatment
4. Perform monthly breast self-examinations
5. Weigh yourself once or twice a week, reporting any sharp increases in weight to your MD.
6. Avoid excessive sun exposure. This can cause blotchy, brown skin discoloration
Taken in part from: Gauwitz, D. (2011) Administering Medications. Minneapolis, Minn. Mc Graw-Hill
Women and Cardiovascular Risks after Menopause
Women have an increased factor with the loss of estrogen in their bodies after menopause which puts them at risk for unfavorable changes in their cholesterol levels
Sandra Cabot, MD. in her book entitled: Smart Medicine for Menopause speaks on this risk factor.
The loss of estrogen in the body results in high LDL (bad Cholesterol) and lowered HDL- ( good choleterol).
After menopause, this imbalance results in an increase in atherosclerosis- the process of blockage and hardening of the arteries in women.
Women who lose the functioning of their ovaries early, before 40 have an even greater risk of heart disease.
Estrogen replacement is important for these women, restoring a favorable balance in cholesterol levels.
The risk of CVD can be reduced by about 50% if estrogen is taken at or soon after menopause.
Hormone replacement therapy remains controversial today. But the natural estrogen’s of today are safe compared to the synthetic estrogen given twenty years ago that caused cancer.
Teken in part from: Cabot, S. (1995). Smart Medicine for Menopause. New York, NY. Avery Publishing