Before deciding to use hormone replacement therapy you should have a complete health evaluation. Here's how to decide whether the benefits of HRT outweigh the risks according to your personal health history.
Time Required: 60 minutes
- Call and schedule an appointment with your health care provider. Make a list of any questions and/or symptoms you are concerned about and take it to your appointment.
- Have a complete pelvic and breast exam. This should include a Pap smear, manual breast exam and mammogram.
- You should have a lab workup including complete blood count, liver function, blood sugar, cholesterol, triglyceride, calcium and phosphorus levels, TSH for thyroid, and complete urinalysis.
- Ask your physician for complete hormone level testing, or buy one of the home test kits available online or locally at pharmacies. Saliva testing is generally considered more accurate than blood testing.
- Bone density testing for osteoporosis should be done prior to beginning hormone replacement therapy to determine a base line, as well as to diagnose bone loss that may already have occurred.
- Your family history of risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and breast and other cancers should be considered. You should realize that according to the latest research, HRT should not be taken solely to reduce the risk of any of these diseases/conditions. In fact, women taking estrogen/progestin combinations may experience a slight increase in risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer.
- Some women may need an endometrial biopsy or vaginal ultrasound , or progesterone challenge test in non-menstruating women, to check for hyperplasia of the uterine lining and endometrial cancer.
- If you and your physician decide that HRT is right for you, you will need to be closely monitored for side effects, how well HRT is working, and other general health issues that may arise.
- Most physicians will ask you to return annually for a pelvic exam, breast exam, mammogram, and Pap smear. Call your physician if you have any side effects or other problems after beginning HRT.
- Remember, if one hormone product causes side effects your physician has many other types of hormone products to choose from until you find the one that works best for you.