The role of hormone replacement therapy in women with a previous diagnosis of breast cancer and a review of possible alternatives
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Estrogen replacement therapy either with (HRT) or without (ERT) accompanying progesterone is routinely offered to well women at the time of menopause, in order to relieve vasomotor symptoms, (hot flashes), reduce urogenital atrophy and reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and perhaps colon cancer and Alzheimer's disease. It is generally felt however, that women with a previous diagnosis of breast cancer are not suitable candidates for such therapy since either estrogen or progesterone may be associated with an increased risk of cancer recurrence. There are however, a variety of approaches to menopausal therapy in such women. A careful history must first be taken in order to identify the symptoms or conditions of concern. Vasomotor symptoms can be reduced by the use of other medications such as the antidepressant venlafaxine (Effexor). Estring, a vaginal estrogen ring can be used to reduce genitourinary symptoms, with little systemic estrogen absorption. Osteoporosis can be prevented or treated with calcium supplements, exercise, improved diet, bisphosphonates and/or selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) while cardiovascular risk can be reduced by diet and exercise, as well as the appropriate use of lipid lowering and antihypertensive medications.
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