For decades, it has been common for women to receive hormone treatments after they go through menopause.
Known by several different names — post-menopausal hormone therapy, hormone replacement therapy and menopausal hormone therapy — hormones are often prescribed to help women relieve their menopause-related symptoms and to prevent osteoporosis, the weakening of bones.
But, according to the American Cancer Society, these treatments can sometimes cause an increased risk for breast cancer.
For women who have not had a hysterectomy, doctors often prescribe two hormones in combination. They will prescribe estrogen to help with the menopause symptoms, and they will also prescribe progesterone to decrease the risk of uterine cancer.
This combination, though, actually increases the risk of getting breast cancer, according to the ACS.
The organization recommends women talk with their doctor about the pros and cons of hormone therapy after menopause.
Estrogen prescribed on its own, not in combination with progesterone, does not seem to increase breast cancer risk, the ACS says. Some studies have even shown it reducing the risk of breast cancer in women who have had their uterus removed.
The bottom line is that anyone considering hormone therapy should know the possible risks, benefits and side effects of such a treatment.
If you and your doctor decide that post-menopausal hormone therapy is the right answer, the ACS recommends using the lowest dosage that is effective and keeping the treatment time as short as possible.