What are the Different Types of Hormone Therapy Side Effects?

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  • Written By: Angela Crout-Mitchell
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 22 May 2020
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There are several different hormone therapy side effects, and commonly include pain, nausea, and frequent headaches. In most cases, these side effects are short term and can be easily managed; however, other more severe side effects and risks are also recognized by the medical community. Though uncommon, some patients who have undergone hormone therapy have experienced increased risks of blood clots, strokes, and, women, breast and uterine cancer. This type of therapy is most commonly used to ease the symptoms of menopause, but is also used to treat breast and prostate cancers. Most doctors are very selective when prescribing these medications, as not all patients are good candidates for the treatment.

The most common kinds of hormone therapy side effects are minor and affect each patient differently. Frequently reported side effects such as nausea, headache, and breast pain can usually be alleviated by tinkering with the balance of estrogen and progesterone in the dosage. It is unclear if the estrogen component or the progesterone element of the therapy is responsible for the side effects. For this reason, it may take several months to reach the correct balance, and it is imperative that patients keep their medical teams informed of any changes.

Though rare, both uterine and breast cancer have been listed has potential hormone therapy side effects. Uterine cancer only occurs in hormone therapy patients that still have their uterus intact, and it seems estrogen only treatments can lead to this condition. When combined with progestin, the risk of uterine cancer is eliminated. The risk of breast cancer is considered to be relatively small and is most often associated with long term, over five years, hormone replacement therapy. During the course of treatment, patients are closely monitored to avoid any potential cancer risks.

Other serious hormone therapy side effects include an increase risk of heart disease and stroke. The use of hormone therapy has proven to be effective at reducing the levels of bad LDL cholesterol, and also raises the healthy HDL cholesterol levels; however, in patients with preexisting heart conditions, the therapy appears to increase their risk of heart attack and disease. Studies performed regarding stroke and the use of hormone therapy for menopause patients has found that a small number of women had more strokes than those taking the placebo. Due to the low incidences of stroke, the risk is considered to be unclear and most doctors continue to prescribe these treatments. All patients taking hormone therapy are encouraged to see their physicians regularly and report any unusual symptoms as quickly as possible.


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