The safety of postmenopausal hormone therapy, which includes estrogen therapy and combination estrogen-progestin therapy, for short-term use to relieve menopausal symptoms, as well as to reduce the long-term effects of estrogen depletion — such as osteoporosis — is now under intense scrutiny by the Federal government. This scrutiny was triggered by major studies of postmenopausal therapy published in 2002 that found significant health risks associated with its use.
In January 2003, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it would require a new, highlighted "black-box" warning on all estrogen products for use by postmenopausal women. The warning indicates an increased risk for heart disease, heart attacks, stroke and breast cancer from supplemental estrogen — risks identified by one section of the Women's Health Initiative study, which was abruptly halted when the risks were identified. The "black-box" warning advises health care professionals to prescribe estrogen products at the lowest dose and for the shortest possible length of time.
New, lower-dose versions of the hormone therapies used to treat symptoms of menopause are currently being developed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved a low-dose version of the combination estrogen-progestin treatment sold as Prempro, which is expected to be available in the summer of 2003.
Other medical and nonmedical options are available and may be appropriate for you to manage symptoms triggered by removing your ovaries with hysterectomy. Discuss your options with your physicians.