HRT’s association with various myths and misconceptions makes it crucial to double-check any facts as and when you hear them, according to Ms Domoney.
“Myths can come from family, friends, newspapers, social media and, more concerningly, other healthcare professionals,” she said. “If you hear one that doesn’t make sense, question its logic and check its source to make sure it’s reliable.”
With this in mind, we’ve broken down some of the most common myths associated with HRT, separating fact from fiction using Ms Domoney’s expert insight and guidance.
HRT causes cancer
While HRT can carry various risks and complications, the relationship between its use and cancer is a lot more subtle.
A major study conducted by the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), for example, found that certain HRT formulations, particularly those containing progestins, were associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.
However, Ms Domoney believes that these results have been blown out of context and aren’t necessarily a cause for concern.
“Many of the participants included [in the WHI’s study] were a lot older and not in good health, and its results aren’t really relevant or reflective of the European population.”
Instead, she believes having an elevated risk of cancer due to HRT really depends on the health of the individual patient.
“If you have a body mass index higher than 30, or use combined HRT treatments for a long period, this can increase your risk of developing breast cancer over time. However, if you keep yourself fit and healthy, prescribing HRT can offer a lot of benefits.”
HRT causes blood clots
The link between blood clots and HRT really depends on the mode of delivery.
A study published in the British Medical Journal back in 2019, for example, reported that there was a 58% increased risk of developing blood clots due to HRT. However, this was specifically associated with HRT tablets, rather than gels or patches.
“There's only a very small increased risk of a blood clot when taking oestrogen through the skin, which is why we tend to use gels or patches for most women,” according to Ms Domoney.
However, even with the increased risk of blood clots with HRT tablets specifically, Ms Domoney says there are certain situations where they may be recommended.
“Patients can take HRT tablets as long as they haven't got any other contraindications. If they don’t have an increased thrombotic risk or high blood pressure, they can be a very reasonable treatment option.”
HRT cannot be used long-term
Another commonly shared misconception is that HRT is not suitable for long-term use. However, according to Ms Domoney, this isn’t strictly true — especially when using HRT as a treatment for menopausal women.
“The length of time that HRT can be taken is determined by the wishes of the woman, the age at which she started taking it and her reasons for needing it,” she said.
“There are no set times for how long it can be taken. Each decision should be carefully considered by herself and a healthcare professional with an understanding of prescribing treatments for menopause.”