Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. is a Gynecologist, Director of the New York Menopause Center, Clinical Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medical College, and Assistant Attending Obstetrician and Gynecologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She is a board certified fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Dr. Allen is also a member of the Faculty Advisory Board and the Women’s Health Director of The Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC). Dr. Allen was the recipient of the 2014 American Medical Women’s Association Presidential Award.

By Patricia Yarberry Allen, MD | bio

This week there seemed to be more information, some of it seemingly contradictory, about hormone therapy. Scientists and physicians have long known that hormone therapy offers many benefits.

Here is what we know for sure: It improves bone density. It provides relief for those menopausal symptoms that interfere with the quality of life. It improves the quality of the complexion and has many other positive impacts on the skin. It improves energy for many women. It improves the libido and the ability to have comfortable intercourse.

Now we are delighted to hear that it may decrease the risk of macular degeneration, which is an increasing cause of blindness in the aging population.

Of course, hormone therapy has many well documented risks as well.

Here is what we know for sure: There is an increase in breast and endometrial cancer. There is an increase in venous blood clots.There is an increase in cardiovascular disease and stroke in some women. This may be related to both age and stage at the time that hormone therapy was first used, as well as genetic risks for clotting disorders. The risk for hormone use seems to increase with length of use. Studies now warn that the risk of breast cancer continues after the hormone therapy has ended.

I argue that we aren’t being whipsawed, however. We now have information from the ongoing evaluation of the Women’s Health Initiative study that gives patients and doctors a much more realistic way to make decisions about the use of these powerful drugs, estrogen and progestins. Hormone therapy, just like life itself, is complicated. But new information that changes that delicate balance on the scale of health choices is always welcome.

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