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‘A sudden stop to HRT means oestrogen receptors throughout the body switch from full to empty, and the impact in terms of symptoms can be similar to a sudden menopause,’ she says.
The effect can be reduced by switching to a lower dose HRT for three to six months before stopping.
Haitham Hamoda, a consultant gynaecologist who leads the menopause unit at King’s College Hospital London, and is a member of the British Menopause Society’s Medical Advisory Council, speaks for many of his peers when he says the health risks of HRT are actually ‘very small when put into context’. Some women do not like the idea of taking hormones, and aren’t willing to consider any risk at all.
But for others, it comes down to a case of individually balancing the risks against the benefits.
As Dr Heather Currie, a consultant gynaecologist at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary in Scotland, explains: ‘It is perfectly fine to start HRT for the first time a few years after your periods stop, but the key is not to wait until more than ten years after the menopause before thinking about starting HRT.
In terms of specific risks, such as ovarian cancer, Katherine Taylor, acting chief executive at Ovarian Cancer Action, says: ‘It’s important to remember that every woman is different, with different risk factors.
This is a question that many women will ask themselves at some point.
Until fairly recently, most women wouldn’t have thought twice before taking a daily hormone pill, but over the past decade doubts have arisen about potential risks, and prescriptions for HRT plummeted. All this week, we’ve been turning the spotlight on the menopause, with practical ideas about the positive impact you can make with diet, exercise and relaxation therapies.
She says many women wait until they retire before coming off completely, as life should be less stressful.
I’d get them every fortnight and they would last for a couple of days.
The pain was bad enough to send me back to the doctor.
Research the pros and cons, then talk to your GP about whether you want HRT and whether you are suitable for it.’ (It is not always advised if you are a heavy smoker, very overweight, or at high risk of stroke or have high blood pressure.)Gabrielle Downey, consultant gynaecologist at City Hospital in Birmingham, says that if your GP won’t prescribe HRT, ask them if there is a menopause specialist in your area, or whether any of the GPs in the practice have specialist menopause training (for a list of menopause clinics, see
Many specialists believe that giving HRT via the skin is safer.
But a hugely influential study in 2002 changed everything.