Hormone Replacement Therapy and Breast Cancer

Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and vivekchugh

Following my last article, Reduce Breast Cancer – Avoid Unnecessary Medical Imaging and HRT (And How To Do That), there has been a flurry of requests for information on natural hormone replacement therapy (“HRT”) after breast cancer.

Conventional HRT

As you may know, conventional HRT uses hormones that are slightly different from the ones found in the body.

Conventional HRT works by replacing women’s two main sex hormones – estrogen and progesterone – but the replacements you get are not exactly the same as the versions your body was making before.

For instance, the estrogen used in the widely-prescribed pharmaceutical Premarin comes from the urine of pregnant mares.  It contains forms of estrogen normally found only in horses.

The replacement for progesterone that comes in regular HRT is known as progestin, which has a slightly different chemical structure from the natural hormone.

In 2002 when a major study called the Women’s Health Initiative linked conventional HRT to a much higher risk of breast cancer and heart disease, the use of conventional HRT in America, Britain and Australia dropped by around 50%.

The Problem Is, When You’ve Had Breast Cancer…

Women who have had breast cancer are often launched prematurely into menopause via the chemotherapy regimen they hope will save their lives.  So yes, we’re alive, but at the mercy of seemingly never-ending hot flashes!  Finding support for all of these tropical moments can be difficult – most doctors will tell you (and I agree) that since you’ve had breast cancer going on conventional HRT is just too big a risk.

So we have to look further afield and natural medicine does have many things to offer us for treating the symptoms of menopause, however quite often we are warned against these remedies because their long-term safety has not been adequately studied.

This is an area that desperately needs some funding – doing the proper research on herbal medicine’s effectiveness for menopausal symptoms particularly after breast cancer.

The herbs normally recommended for treating the symptoms of menopause are agnus castus (chasteberry), black cohosh, dong quai, evening primrose oil, flaxseed oil, maca, St John’s wort, soy isoflavones, and red clover.

I started to write about the effects of each of these herbs, but my research turned up quite a few articles online that warned against using certain herbs because of lack of studies showing their safety and effectiveness.  Normally that wouldn’t worry me because I’ve been using herbal medicine for YEARS with no ill effects, in fact quite the opposite.  But I wanted you, my faithful readers, to be aware of the ones that have scientific backing.

Some Interesting Articles to Read

About.com – Herbal Remedies for Menopause

Cornell University’s Herbal Medicines and Breast Cancer Risk .  See especially Table 2 – Results of Clinical Trials of the Effectiveness and Safety of Herbal Medicines Used For Treatment of Menopausal Symptoms.

Advanced Natural Medicine’s Natural Remedies for Menopause – the part about black cohosh was particularly upsetting to me.

Dr Nalini’s (one of the doctors I follow) Soy Safety For Breast Cancer Survivors

From these articles, it’s clear to me that much more research needs to be carried out on the safety of herbal medicine for those affected by breast cancer.

Some studies are currently being carried out, however, because herbs cannot be patented like drugs can, there is little financial incentive for research facilities to carry out expensive trials.  The good news is that organizations like Stand Up To Cancer are now starting to provide funding for this type of research.

5 Interesting Things That Appear to Assist Menopausal Symptoms After Breast Cancer

My research turned up a couple of interesting things (with research backing them) that appear to assist menopausal symptoms after breast cancer:

Conflicting Information – Bio-Identical Hormones

There’s been a lot of talk about bio-identical hormones lately, many women (including Oprah) have been promoting their use and feeling fantastic on them.

Click here for the Wikipedia article describing bio-identical hormones and how they work.

The Mayo Clinic doesn’t agree that they are safer, see this article Are bioidentical hormones safer and more effective than hormones used in traditional hormone therapy for menopause symptoms?

And from Oprah’s website, Suzanne Somers’ (herself a breast cancer survivor) Excerpt from Ageless: The Naked Truth About Bioidentical Hormones

My Research Will Continue

Unfortunately, conflicting information appears to be the order of the day when you’re looking for menopausal support after breast cancer.  Rest assured that I will be following this subject very closely and will let you know when I find safe nutrients (and the studies backing them) that will assist menopausal symptoms and also be safe for people who have had breast cancer.

I recently wrote another article that may assist:  Tips, Tricks and Support for Hot Flashes.

I found this book to be indispensable and still refer to it from time to time:  What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Breast Cancer – How Hormone Balance Can Help Save Your Life by Dr John R Lee.  Eye opening and it should shed some light on the subject for you.

I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  


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