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The Truth About HRT by Liz Earle

I feel there’s still such a huge stigma about taking HRT and the risks involved.

I’ve heard from many women that when they’ve discussed it with their GP, it’s made out to be this very scary drug with a long list of side effects. This can be due to the fact that much of the research the NHS is working off in regards to the menopause is a few years out of date. Talk to any menopause clinic in the UK and they will all say that the benefits of HRT far outweigh the risks. For many women HRT can be your best friend. I for one, am a huge advocate of HRT ever since I was prescribed some by my gynaecologist. After being given an oestrogen gel for a week or two, I noticed the majority of my physical symptoms felt better. 

I am of course aware that not every woman can take HRT for a multitude of reasons. If this is the case, there are other ways of treatment which can also be effective. However, I believe that every woman has the right to go over every option for treatment and be informed enough to make that decision for herself. Unfortunately, from what I have seen, there are many women out there who are eligible for HRT, but due to the stigma and misinformation they feel too afraid to try it. This is why I am so keen on changing the conversation about HRT, so women can make more informed decisions regarding their own bodies. 

One of my good friends, Liz Earle is the author of over thirty-five books ranging from topics of health, beauty and wellbeing. After the success of her 2018 book called “The Good Menopause Guide” she has just come out with a new e-book “The Truth About HRT.” I’ve been given an extract to share with you all here.

Introduction: A Word from Liz

Since writing my latest book, The Good Menopause Guide back in 2018, I have been shocked and saddened by the extreme confusion, mythology and scaremongering surrounding the subject of HRT. Not only amongst mid-life women needlessly affected by so many easy-to-solve symptoms of the menopause (and perimenopause, the years leading up to it) but also by the staggering lack of knowledge about HRT amongst some British medics, from GPs, to practice nurses, hormone specialists and even consultant gynaecologists – many of whom remain unaware of the latest research, health benefits and fundamental changes in recent years on the NHS guidelines when it comes to prescribing HRT. The vast majority of women experience menopausal symptoms – around 75% in the UK. Of these, 25% report that they have a negative effect on their lives, often affecting their family relationships and working life. This is a very significant number of women needing proper, informed, safe, effective healthcare.

So, the aim of this very focused guide is to give all women affected by their symptoms, as well as their medical advisors, the most up-to-date, relevant and helpful information to inform choices that significantly improve many women’s long-term health and wellbeing. This guide is designed to be read alongside my Good Menopause Guide. This hardback book contains over 15 chapters and individual sections on many more aspects of the menopause, including over 60 hormone-helping, tasty recipes to help make this time of life better than ever. HRT is just one of these chapters in the book – but it is the one I am most often asked about!

HRT and Breast Cancer

Emeritus Clinical Professor of Medicine and breast cancer specialist Dr Avrum Bluming has spent two decades specifically investigating the studies surrounding breast cancer risks on HRT. A senior investigator for the National Cancer Institute, he was responsible for the first study of lumpectomy for the treatment of breast cancer in 1978. For over 20 years he has studied the risks and benefits of HRT specifically administered to women with a history of breast cancer. There is nothing this man does not know about the clinical risks of taking hormones whilst receiving treatment for breast cancer. Not only a leading cancer specialist, he has a highly personal interest here too: His own wife had breast cancer – and decided to take HRT four years after completing treatment for her primary tumour. This, however, is not a step even HRT specialists in the UK are quite ready to take.

Some studies have found that estrogen decreases the risk of breast cancer development. In fact, Professor Bluming points out that the overwhelming majority of women who take HRT do not develop breast cancer – and that the overwhelming majority of women who do develop breast cancer do not take HRT. In Norway, where women went off HRT following the Women’s Health Initiative report, there was no decline in breast cancer rates (which you would clearly expect, were there to be a connection between the two). Prof. Bluming highlights that fact that the rates of breast cancer continue to rise past menopause, even in women who are not on HRT. If estrogen were to be the cause of breast cancer, that rate should surely fall, given that our estrogen rates decline so heavilyafter menopause. Rates of breast cancer in older women continue to rise as their estrogen levels drop. We need estrogen – and it may well afford cancer protection too.

To conclude this, possibly somewhat shattering, section … “women on HRT live longer and have a significantly lower death rate from breast cancer than those not taking HRT”, says one of the world’s leading breast cancer/HRT specialists. So is Professor Bluming a lone voice? Not a bit of it. His book is endorsed by Lord Leslie Turnberg, former President of the Royal College of Physicians, Vincent DeVita, former Director of the U.S. National Centre Institute and Phyllis Greenberger, CEO of the Society for Women’s Health Research. In fact, when asked for an expert review, Professor Michael Baum, widely acknowledged as one of the leading breast cancer research experts in the world (currently Visiting Professor of Medical Humanities at University College, London) wrote “This book is long overdue, and I salute the authors for their courage and effort… I believe it is an ethical imperative for all clinicians who treat women in menopause or women with breast cancer to alert their patients to this book”. An ethical imperative. Powerful words to ponder on indeed

Why take HRT?

As we have just discovered, there are few (if any) cancer risks associated with taking HRT and some proven cancer protective benefits (such as lower rate of colon cancer). Other acknowledged health benefits include a much lower risk of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. But gaining these health benefits is not the main reason why most women search out HRT. No, most women seek HRT as a desperate relief from a mass of health issues and symptoms. These can range from the mild (disturbed sleep, itchy skin) to the very severe (depression, anxiety – even suicide). It is a tragic fact that the most common age for a woman to take her own life is 51. The average age of menopause is also 51. Some women are fortunate in that they have no symptoms and their periods just stop. However, these fortunate few are very much in the minority. Most women experience some symptoms – and some can experience these for 10 years or even much longer.

To read the complete book, follow the link here where you can buy her e-book. 

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