Alternative Treatments for Hot Flashes - Treatments
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How are hot flashes usually treated?
Traditionally, hot flashes have been treated with
oral (by mouth) or transdermal (patch) forms of estrogen.
Hormone therapy (HT),
also referred to as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or postmenopausal hormone
consists of estrogens or a combination of estrogens and progesterone
(progestin). Oral and transdermal estrogen are available as estrogen alone or
estrogen combined with progesterone. Whether oral or transdermal, all available
prescription estrogen replacement medications are effective in reducing hot
flash frequency and severity.
However, long-term studies (NIH-sponsored Women's
Health Initiative, or WHI) of women receiving oral preparations of combined hormone therapy with both
estrogen and progesterone were halted when it was discovered that these women
had an increased risk for heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer when
compared with women who did not receive HT. Later studies of women taking
estrogen therapy alone showed that estrogen was associated with an increased
risk for stroke, but not for heart attack or breast cancer. Estrogen
therapy alone, however, is associated with an increased risk of developing endometrial cancer
the lining of the uterus) in postmenopausal women who have not had their uterus
The decision in regard to starting or continuing hormone therapy, therefore, is a very individual
in which the patient and doctor must take into account the inherent risks and
treatment benefits, plus each woman's own medical history. It is
currently recommended that if hormone therapy is used, it should be used at the
smallest effective dose for the shortest possible time.