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Dr. Bitner busts myths about hormone treatments

Years ago, aging women just had to suffer with their aging bodies and the symptoms that came with it. Now thanks to hormone treatments, women can go through aging and menopause with little to no symptoms. However it's not a one treatment fits all process.

Dr. Diana Bitner, a nationally recognized menopause specialist from Spectrum Health, explains the different types of hormone treatments available, as well as bust the myths behind those treatments.

Hormones will make me fat: False, menopause is associated with belly fat, hormone medications are not! Studies show that hormone medication can help with sleep and reduce insulin resistance, so if women do the work to stay healthy, hormones can help maintain a healthy weight.

Estrogen causes breast cancer: False, and in the very large study of women, the WHI, women who were on estrogen alone, because they had a prior hysterectomy, had a lower risk of breast cancer. Estrogen does not cause cancer, but if a woman gets breast cancer, we do not give estrogen in the blood (patch/pill) because of the concern it could cause a recurrence. We might prescribe vaginal estrogen, but not systemic. The only women in the WHI study with more breast cancer were older and on synthetic oral progesterone more than seven years. This study helps us understand safe ways to give hormones and which type.

Prescription medication is not bioidentical:  False, it is. It is biochemically identical to the estrogen the ovary makes before menopause. Spectrum Health prescribes FDA approved estrogen and progesterone, meaning it is the same every time you place a patch or take a pill. There is no batch to batch variability like in the compounded meds. And, insurance will cover the FDA approved medication.

There are some guidelines to consider when thinking about hormone medications for menopause. If this is you, hormones could be a very safe option:

  • Less than 10 years from last period
  • No history of breast cancer
  • No vascular heart disease (heart attack, or high risk for heart attack)
  • No history of blood clot in the leg or lung
  • No prior stroke
  • No dementia
  • No metabolic syndrome (combo of high blood pressure, central obesity, high blood sugar, high cholesterol)

These are guidelines, and if there are questions of risk, seek  advice from cardiology, diabetes, hematology, and cancer care specialists. The overall goal is that a patient is safe, then happy, and then healthy!

Dr. Bitner's office is located at 3800 Lake Michigan Drive Northwest, Suite A. To schedule an appointment with her, call (616)-267-8225.

Read more stories like this on Dr. Bitner's Blog.

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