Do you have to take estrogen forever?

Estrogen replacement therapy helps prevent osteoporosis, which is fatal and paralyzing. No, menopausal women don't need to take estrogen or progesterone. However, they may be useful for treating hot flashes and night sweats in certain patients. Some women can continue to take hormones for two or three years, while others will need five to seven years, or maybe longer.

The goal is to take the lowest dose that will treat and control symptoms so that the benefits outweigh the risks. Although estrogen therapy increases the risk of endometrial cancer, this is not usually a fatal disease. For example, if a person takes a combination of estrogen and progestogen for more than 5 years, the risk of breast cancer may increase even after stopping hormone therapy. At least three studies show that estrogen therapy provides definitive protection against cardiovascular disease.

Minor side effects, such as nausea and fluid retention, are another reason to doubt that a woman is better off with estrogen therapy. Evidence that women who take estrogen have a lower mortality than those who don't take hormones may be affected by statistical bias. Talk to your healthcare provider about vaginal estrogen therapy, which is not associated with an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular or heart disease, dementia, or stroke. An estrogen patch is a form of estrogen therapy used to control symptoms associated with menopause to prevent and control symptoms such as hot flashes.