By Dr. Alexandra Mayer,
Ethos Integrative Medicine
In the heart of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we’re committed to empowering women with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their health. Unfortunately, myths and misconceptions often deter women from exploring beneficial treatments like hormone replacement therapy (HRT), fearing its association with breast cancer risk. We’re here to clear the air on these misconceptions. Here’s why you shouldn’t be afraid of HRT causing breast cancer.
The Body’s Messengers
Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers. They are created by your endocrine glands and relay vital information through the bloodstream to your organs and tissues. These essential messengers regulate our energy levels, metabolism, mood, body temperature, libido, cognitive function, and reproductive health.
As we enter menopause, typically in our late 40s to mid 50s, our estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone production decreases. These hormonal shifts can have a massive impact on your health, inducing hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, vaginal dryness, libido problems, and sleep disturbances.
What is Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) works to provide the body with the necessary hormones, alleviating the discomfort caused by hormonal imbalances. HRT is available in various forms, including pills, patches, creams, gels, injections, and pellets. However, not all HRT is created equally.
Since synthetic hormones are chemically altered and not identical to human hormones, they may not be recognized by the body, potentially resulting in various side effects. In contrast, bioidentical hormones are derived from natural plant sources, and mirror the structure of hormones naturally produced by the body. These bioidentical hormones closely replicate the body’s own hormones, minimizing the side effects often associated with synthetic hormones. As a result, many patients find bioidentical hormone therapy (BHRT) to be a more attractive treatment option.
Debunking the Myth that HRT Causes Breast Cancer:
Initial studies from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) have significantly contributed to the misconception surrounding HRT and breast cancer risk. The findings from 20 years ago indicated a 26% increase in breast cancer risk among women taking estrogen and synthetic progestin compared to those not taking hormones. Unfortunately, the media interpreted that as 26 in 100 women will get breast cancer. However, this increase actually translates to less than one additional breast cancer case per 1,000 women, per year.
A recent study conducted in the UK analyzed approximately 43,000 newly diagnosed breast cancer cases between 1995 and 2014, and reaffirmed the WHI results. Women using estrogen-only HRT did NOT show an elevated risk of developing breast cancer when compared to non-users.
The Key Takeaway:
The risks proclaimed in the media aren’t what we thought them to be! Contrary to widespread belief, the only group of women with an increased breast cancer risk were those taking estrogen and synthetic progestin. Women using estrogen and bioidentical progesterone had NO increased breast cancer risk.
Additional studies have found that maintaining an active lifestyle and healthy weight are two of the best ways to reduce breast cancer risk long-term. Alcohol intake has also been correlated with breast cancer risk, so limiting consumption to a few drinks per week can be greatly beneficial. Lastly, being proactive with your health by getting yearly mammograms should not be overlooked.
Debunking the myths surrounding HRT requires a thorough understanding of evolving scientific evidence, hormone formulations, and the advantages of a personalized treatment approach. We can confidently say that utilizing bioidentical hormones not only enhances the safety and efficacy of HRT, but also provides a more tailored and individualized experience.
What This Means for Women:
Hormonal shifts are not something you “just have to deal with.” For many women, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy has transformed their health. BHRT has been shown to alleviate the frequency and intensity of hot flashes and night sweats, stabilize mood and reduce irritability, improve vaginal health and libido, support healthy weight management and cognitive function, and improve skin health.
At Ethos Integrative Medicine, we prioritize assessing for potential risk factors, especially when considering any form of treatment. Our approach to care involves a comprehensive evaluation of your health history, and conducting frequent, precise lab tests before recommending any bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. With the right provider, thorough lab testing, advanced cancer screening, and tailored care, BHRT is a safe and effective solution to alleviate peri-menopausal and menopausal symptoms, ultimately leading to an improved quality of life!
Scan the QR code below to access our FREE report, “Why Your Labs Are Normal But You Still Feel Like Crap,” and call 480-360-0115 to schedule an appointment with our hormone specialists at Ethos Integrative Medicine!
This content is sponsored by Ethos Integrative Medicine.