risk factors for breast cancer

HRT And Breast Cancer Risks – What Are They Really?

There is so much unnecessary fear about HRT and breast cancer.

A lot of women are not armed with the correct information about HRT and as a result are too scared to even consider it, even if they are really suffering badly with their menopausal symptoms.

Symptoms can be absolutely horrendous and wreck your quality of life.

Many women don’t even consider the long-term effects of menopause on their health – most of which HRT helps protect you from. Some of these are more likely to get you than breast cancer, and are more deadly. This is why it’s important to arm yourself with the facts.

HRT And Breast Cancer – The Real Risks

This infographic from Women’s Health Concern sums up the risks of HRT rather simply.

hrt and breast cancerAs you can see – by far the biggest risk of getting breast cancer for most women is being overweight. Given that two thirds of women in the UK are overweight – why isn’t a big fuss being made about this?

Drinking alcohol is the next riskiest thing if you’re worried about breast cancer, but most of do that don’t we?

Interestingly oestrogen only HRT actually decreases your risk or getting breast cancer! Women who’ve had a hysterectomy will be on this if they’re on HRT.

More recent research is showing the when a women takes combined HRT (oestrogen and progesterone), and the progesterone is natural (usually prescribed as Utrogestan capsules) the very small increased risk for breast cancer goes away.

It appears the slightly increased risk is associated with progestin – basically these as pharmaceutical bastardised versions of progesterone. That said the progestin desogestrel appears just as safe as natural progesterone.

The upshot about HRT and breast cancer is – progesterone/progestin matters. But even the small risk most unnatural progestins give is very little compared to the risk of being overweight. I learned this from Miss Jo Marsden, consultant breast surgeon at King’s College Hospital London who’s an expert in this area.

If you’re worried about breast cancer:

  • Lose weight if you need too = Top Priority
  • Cut back on booze, especially if you’re over your 14 units per week
  • Do not let fear of breast cancer influence your decision about HRT, because it has many benefits
    • Discuss with you doctor if you feel you’re higher risk for breast cancer before ruling it out
  • Don’t listen to people who don’t know what they’re talking about – far too much of that going on

Check out when the next menopause workshop is. The discussion about HRT is usually quite lively!

I got this feedback several months after my first 3 hour workshop from a lovely 68 year old woman who had traveled a fair distance on the train to attend:

Hi Julie,
Just an update I came to your first menopause workshop, as I felt awful I spoke to my doctor & she has let me go back on oestrogen only ERT in spite of having had breast cancer. I can’t tell you how much better I feel, the aches & pains in all my joints are going & I have more energy. I wouldn’t have asked her if I hadn’t come to your workshop, so thank you.

This just goes to show how much things have changed in recent years as a result of research. If you’re interested in HRT but worried about breast cancer – have a chat with your doctor and find out if you can indeed take it.

The content of the workshop has been put together online since then. You can get it here.

Have a great week.

Dr Julie

2 thoughts on “HRT And Breast Cancer Risks – What Are They Really?”

  1. Hello Julie
    Another really interesting read, thank you.
    I had a hysterectomy aged 35 I am now 63. I started Oestrogen onlyHRT around age 53 which changed my life. Last year before my 62nd Birthday I decided to come off it with pressure from my work colleagues (NHS). I struggled again with sweats, irritability moods etc, and still do to a certain extent, If only I had known what I’ve just read, I wouldn’t have stopped it.

    Thank you once again for your very interesting reads.

    1. Dr. Julie Coffey

      Hi Jean. Have you thought about discussing with your doctor going back on it since you’ve not felt so good since stopping it?

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