Applying results of women's health initiative study to individual patients

SEATTLE, WA--Scientists at the AAAS (Triple-A-S) Annual Meeting argued that women facing severe menopause symptoms should demand that their doctors take the time to help them balance the risks versus the benefits of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). AAAS is the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"We're saying that physicians have to learn more about their patients' risk profile," said Susan Johnson, a gynecologist who is an investigator in the Women's Health Initiative study clinical trials. One of the WHI clinical trials, which studied the effects of a combination of estrogen and progestin on the prevention of chronic diseases, was ended in July 2002, after researchers found that combined HRT was putting women at risk for heart attacks, breast cancer, strokes and blood clots. "There are many women for whom HRT continues to be an excellent choice for the treatment of menopause related symptoms. In my clinical practice, I'm putting a lot of women back on HRT."

With the release of the results of the high profile WHI study, many physicians and their women patients have been struggling to weigh contradictory evidence from several studies, while balancing the advantages and disadvantages of various treatment options. Johnson and several of her colleagues on a panel at the AAAS Annual Meeting have been among those the doctors are turning to for guidance.

Johnson noted that in the past clinicians could recommend HRT for the treatment of menopause and several diseases. In that sense, the WHI is transforming the practice of gynecology, she said. "Now, several therapeutic options need to be presented to women who prefer not to use hormones, and more time must be spent in considering risk factors and prevention options for osteoporosis, heart disease, and other conditions."

Nonetheless, Johnson said, based on the WHI study, the risks exceed the benefits for asymptomatic women who are using HRT for prevention of conditions su

Contact: Monica Amarelo
American Association for the Advancement of Science

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