Menopause Mondays: The Estrogen Spin!

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When I think of the word “spin” I think of all kinds of fun stuff. Spin class is great for you, a new love-spin is euphoric, and spinning around in front of the mirror in a new fun dress reminds me of my childhood and makes me smile, but the estrogen spin is frustrating and annoying!

If you are in perimenopause and menopause (I call it PM&M for short) and suffering from any of the 34 menopause symptoms, you’re head is probably spinning.  It’s random spinning, but it happens often and is caused by the recurring pounding of the unanswered question: do I need estrogen?

Shmirshky is on the case! We need answers about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) that are in “lay-person speak” so that we can understand them.  I don’t know about you, but when they start flipping charts in my face with graphs and statistics – I start flipping out and then I get totally lost.

Recently I was reading the eBook, Outliving Your Ovaries – An Endocrinologist Weighs the Risks and Rewards of Treating Menopause with Hormone Replacement Therapy by Dr. Marina Johnson. Most of the time I like reading Harlequin romance novels, but here is an important and simple statistic to get your spinning head around:  Dr. Johnson points out that in 2006, 398,525 women died of heart attacks and strokes and 40,821 died of breast cancer.  Heart Disease is the number one killer of women, not breast cancer.

Eager to learn more, I flew into Phoenix to meet with Dr. Mitchell Harman who ran the Keeps Study and is highly involved in researching and learning about the risks and benefits of hormone therapy.  Dr. Harman echoed Dr. Johnson as he explained that middle-aged women are at a much greater risk of dying from heart disease as opposed to breast cancer.  My breasts were immediately dancing with joy, but my heart sank.

He went onto say that estrogen appears to be effective medicine for decreasing the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, colon cancer, and potentially even dementia for some woman in PM&M (perimenopause and menopause).  Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm! I said, “Why is no one talking about this with us?”

In short: because it’s complicated and it’s not scary, unlike many of the news stories about health that we read and see on TV. Since the issue is not black and white, there is not a simple sound bite answer to the question, “do I need estrogen?”

It seems like every month or so, new information comes to light about a particular wrinkle in the results of hormone therapy studies. More and more specifics are coming to light, just like this article in the New York Times about estrogen therapy for women who have had a hysterectomy. Of course, this study is still focused on conjugated equine estrogens (Premarin), which many doctors are no longer prescribing. These new stories further emphasize how personalized and particular the hormone therapy question really is – there just isn’t a blanket YES or NO answer for every woman who’s asking the same question.

There are many studies out there, both in our country, and in others, such as FranceCanada, and Denmark. Everyone is studying, but what we need is a comprehensive risk/benefit analysis based on all the US and the international data. A risk/benefit analysis takes account of all kinds of factors, including age and medical history, and takes a look at the potential benefits that a certain medicine offers as compared to the potential risks and side affects. It’s a great way to assess whether or not that particular treatment is right for you.

Stay tuned, as I’m going to be digging deeper. Women have to reach out for the support we need from the medical community. We need to get the real scoop on Hormone Replacement Therapy research so that we can make quality of life decisions for ourselves and stop that estrogen spin!

Check out these articles for some more interesting information:

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/05/estrogen-lowers-risk-of-heart-attack-and-breast-cancer-in-some/?hp

http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/305/13/1305.abstract

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-04/fccc-gsi032811.php

http://www.womenshealthresearch.org/site/News2?abbr=hs_&page=NewsArticle&id=9417

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ricki-pollycove-md/hormone-replacement-therapy_b_797579.html

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/cancer/articles/2010/12/09/estrogen-only-hormone-therapy-may-reduce-breast-cancer-risk-for-some

 

After struggling with her own severe menopause symptoms and doing years of research, Ellen resolved to share what she learned from experts and her own trial and error. Her goal was to replace the confusion, embarrassment, and symptoms millions of women go through–before, during, and after menopause–with the medically sound solutions she discovered. Her passion to become a “sister” and confidant to all women fueled Ellen’s first book, Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness. As a result of the overwhelming response from her burgeoning audiences and followers’ requests for empowering information they could trust, Ellen’s weekly blog, Menopause MondaysTM, was born.

  • Karen A

    Thank you for sharing your passion on this so important subject on HRT. It could quite possibly be a woman’s salvation. I read your book and loved it, it’s the information and support I so needed. Bless you!