Common therapy increases aggressive breast cancer

By Sara Story - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV)- A common treatment for post-menopausal woman may be increasing their risk of dying from breast cancer. New evidence suggests that women who take combined hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, have a higher chance of developing an aggressive form of breast cancer.

It's a common treatment that's prescribed to women in their late 40s and early 50s. Hormone replacement therapy is used to ward off the symptoms of menopause. "Which include fatigue, hot flashes, and mood swings, possibly sleep disturbance and for the prevention of Osteoporoses," said Dr. Thomas Greggory, an Oncologist at Texas Oncology Tyler Cancer Center.

"The buzz was, it helps to make you look younger," said Linda Spinalay, a stage four breast cancer patient and previous HRT patient.

A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association confirms that women, like Spinalay, who took combined HRT, have an increased risk of developing an aggressive form of breast cancer and may be at higher risk of dying from the disease.

"From what I've read, I think this will be practice changing," admitted Dr. Greggory. He says a study done in 2002 warned of a link between HRT and breast cancer. Following that study, doctors have prescribed the treatment less. "But we've also believed there was not an increased risk of the higher grade breast cancers, the more dangerous breast cancers," said Dr. Greggory.

Continued research by the Women's Health Initiative proves this wrong. More than 12,000 women participated in their study. 385 of them that were taking HRT developed aggressive breast cancer. 293 that were taking the placebo developed aggressive breast cancer.

"I never would have done it. I took it because the doctor just prescribed it," said Spinalay.

Doctors say don't quit taking the treatment cold turkey just yet. Talk to your physician about alternate options and what's best for you. Doctors say that non-hormone therapies, like anti-depressants or acupuncture, may provide some women relief from their menopause symptoms.


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