What is Hormone Therapy? How is it Done? Your HRT Questions Answered by Experts
In today’s post we’re going to take a closer look at a highly sought-after question – what is hormone therapy?
Before we move on, it’s important to mention that according to The North American Menopause Society, HT is still the most effective treatment for vasomotor symptoms and the genitourinary syndrome of menopause.
On top of that, hormone therapy has also been shown to prevent bone loss. Sure, many will disagree by listing some of the side effects associated with HT, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
First and foremost, let’s focus on explaining what it actually is.
What Is Hormone Replacement Therapy?
As the name suggests, HRT is a form of treatment that aims to balance hormonal levels (estrogen for example), by giving to the body more of what it needs. Or in other words, this therapy is used to add, block or remove hormones from the body.
At BHRC, we believe in titration to add a new level of control to hormone therapy. Watch this video by Dan Holtz to find out more:
These hormones serve as the body’s chemical messengers and they are produced in our endocrine glands – like the thyroid, pancreas plus the ovaries in women and the testicles in men.
Women mainly use this treatment to help relieve the symptoms of menopause – hot flashes, excessive sweating etc. A study from back in 2001 claims that around 17% of postmenopausal women in the UK receive prescriptions for HRT, while diabetic ladies are being prescribed with HRT 30% less than their non-diabetic counterparts.
The interesting part is here is that they claim that up to 80% of women experience menopausal symptoms and apart from relieving the menopause symptoms, HRT might help the women further due to its effects in disease prophylaxis. And also according the same study, one of the primary concerns of HRT when it comes to treating diabetic women with it (its metabolic effects) don’t appear to deter doctors from advertising HRT, which apparently is recommended for ladies with diabetes.
Oh, and note that men can also rely on hormone replacement therapy, although for the gents it’s also known as TRT – testosterone replacement therapy.
Now, there are two primary methods of delivering certain hormones to the body:
- Bioidentical hormones
- Synthetic hormones
The former includes progesterone, estriol and estradiol, while the latter is synthetic and can be animal-derived – conjugated equine estrogens (CEE), medroxyprogesterone acetate and other artificial progestins.
Now, there’s a lot of debate whether bioidentical hormones are the better alternative, since they are presumably safer. Some studies do suggest that bioidentical hormones seem to be associated with lowers risks of developing breast cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
In fact, a study by Postgrad Med. from 2009 shows that “Physiological data and clinical outcomes demonstrate that bioidentical hormones are associated with lower risks, including the risk of breast cancer and cardiovascular disease, and are more efficacious than their synthetic and animal-derived counterparts.”
If you are considering hormone therapy, consult one of our expert physicians. Never attempt to use HRT on your own – a specialist has to prescribe it to you.
What Are Hormone Therapy Side Effects
As with any medication, HRT comes with some potential side effects. It’s not guaranteed that you’ll experience any of them, but adverse effects can take place, regardless of the form of treatment. Obviously, it all depends on:
- The type of HRT
- The dosage
- The patient’s health status
Note that side effects can potentially occur at any time, without a warning. They can manifest immediately after the HRT has been administered. Or you might experience them after days or even weeks, you never know. Here’s a list of the most common side effects associated with hormone therapy:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Swelling (or weight gain)
- Low sex drive
- Hot flashes
- Treatment-induced menopause
- Breast swelling or tenderness
- ED (erectile dysfunction)
- Tumor flare reaction
- Fertility problems
- Muscle or joint pain
- Blood clots
The good news is that BHRC co-founder, Dan Holtz, has pioneered new applications methods for bioidentical HRT that vastly improve safety, and reduce the occurrence of side effects.
Remember that we’re all unique. Just because someone complains of lowered sex drive or hot flashes during hormone replacement therapy, doesn’t automatically mean that you will experience this too. It all depends on the person and how the body responds, period.
Is Hormone Replacement Therapy Safe For Men?
Yes! Also known as TRT – testosterone replacement therapy – hormone replacement therapy for men is safe for those experiencing a decline in testosterone levels past the age of 25. If you suffer from low-T symptoms including fatigue, fuzzy-brain, lost muscle mass, and uncontrolled weight gain, then we recommend TRT.
Wondering how do I know if I have low testosterone? Dan Holtz explains it all in the video below:
With TRT, you’re adding more testosterone to your body to correct a testosterone imbalance.
As a result, you have more energy, increased sex drive, better overall mood and you might even enjoy a decreased amount of body fat plus more muscles. For instance, bodybuilders are known to use synthetic versions of testosterone in order to enhance their muscle gains and shed the unwanted fat.
When it comes to taking TRT, there are several different methods for receiving the treatment:
You may think that taking a pill is the safest and easiest way of doing it, but in reality, they can cause serious liver toxicity. In our experience, injections are by far the most effective choice for males. For testosterone replacement in women, we prefer gels and topical ointments. But all of them have some sort of side effects, so the best way to determine the right type of TRT for you is to visit your physician.
How Does Hormone Therapy For Cancer Work?
Hormone Therapy has its implications for treating cancer. For example, it can be used to target prostate and breast cancers that use hormones to grow. We can say that hormone therapy falls into two main categories:
- Blocks body’s own ability to produce hormones.
- Interfere with the hormones present in the body.
When combined with other medication, HT can help by:
- Potentially shrinking tumors before surgery or radiation therapy.
- Potentially lowering the risk of cancer recurrence.
- Reducing cancer cells that have appeared again or spread to other parts of the body.
But in the end, it all depends on the type of cancer. Also, other things that should be taken into consideration are – if the cancer has spread (and how far), if it relies on hormones to grow and if you have any underlying conditions.
Hormone Therapy For Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is running rampant in the 21st century, as unfortunate as that is. In fact, breast cancer seems to be the most common invasive cancer in ladies today – it’s only second to lung cancer when it comes to the primary cause of cancer death in the female population.
Now, there’s a lot of controversy when it comes to hormone therapy, namely the menopausal hormone therapy. There are studies that propose an increase in breast cancer risk in menopausal women who use HT.
Still, hormone therapy can be an effective treatment for breast cancer, as some types of breast cancer are affected by the hormones flowing through your body. In other words, the ER-positive and PR-positive breast cancer cells have receptors that attach to estrogen (the female hormone) and this helps them grow. This is where HT comes into play.
Hormone therapy mainly works to either low estrogen levels in the system, or to block estrogen from having an effect on cancer cells.
That’s done by either:
- Drugs that block estrogen receptors (Tamoxifen, Fulvestrant etc.).
- Medications that lower estrogen levels (aromatase inhibitors, ovarian suppression drugs etc.).
Back in the days, methods such as high doses of synthetic estrogen and even androgens (male hormones) were widely used. However, modern healthcare has moved away from such ways.
What do Hormone Shots Do for Prostate Cancer?
Hormone shots can be used in a process called androgen deprivation therapy or androgen suppression therapy. The idea here is to reduce the number of androgens (male hormones) in order to halt the progress of prostate cancer. These so-called androgens are testosterone and dihydrotestosterone. And while this hormone therapy does not cure prostate cancer on its own, it can help – lowering androgen levels (or stopping them from getting into prostate cancer cells) may help to reduce the size of the prostate cancer and slow down its growth.
Alright, now that you know what ADT is, let’s have a look at when you might need to resort to hormone therapy:
- When the prostate cancer remains or develops again after initially treating it with surgery or radiation.
- When your risk for recurrent cancer is increased, your doctor can put you on hormone therapy along with radiation therapy.
- When the cancer has spread too much to be treated with surgery or radiation – or if these two treatments are unavailable to you.
- When there’s a need for HT before radiation in order to shrink the cancer and make the overall treatment more effective.
It should be noted that not everything is roses and rainbows when being on ADT (androgen deprivation therapy). When your primary male hormones (such as testosterone) decline, you can experience some of the following side effects:
- ED (erectile dysfunction)
- Lowered or no sex drive
- Shrinkage of the testicles and penis
- Loss of muscles mass
- Fat gain
Not sure what to do? Let your physician be the judge.
What is Hormone Therapy? It Could be Just What You Need
It’s safe to say that hormone therapy can be an effective, modern method for dealing with a plethora of unpleasant conditions. Whether we’re talking about treating menopausal symptoms, low testosterone or even certain types of cancer, HT has its use in today’s medicine.
Now, if you have any additional questions or if there’s anything else on your mind that you’d like to share with us, make sure to leave us a comment in the section below!
Hormone replacement therapy for postmenopausal women with diabetes
The 2017 hormone therapy position statement of The North American Menopause Society
The bioidentical hormone debate: are bioidentical hormones (estradiol, estriol, and progesterone) safer or more efficacious than commonly used synthetic versions in hormone replacement therapy?
Testosterone: its role in development of prostate cancer and potential risk from use as hormone replacement therapy.
Menopausal Hormone Therapy and Breast Cancer Risk in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study Cohort
Hormonal therapy of prostate cancer