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Many Women Choosing To Stop Hormone Replacement Therapy

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DURHAM, N.C. — During menopause, the decision to use hormone replacement therapy has been somewhat confusing for women.

In July, the government stopped a study of estrogen/progestin therapy after it was found that HRT can increase the risk of heart disease and breast cancer.

If the risks of hormone replacement therapy came as a shock following a July study, reality has set in for many women.

"Cooler heads have prevailed, but I think the bottom line is think twice about using hormone replacement therapy," said Dr. Margaret Gradison, chief of family medicine at Duke University Medical Center.

Helen Gorlesky went on hormone replacement therapy five years ago to cool her hot flashes. In July, she saw her doctor talk on TV about estrogen therapy increasing a woman's risk of heart attack and breast cancer.

"I have a family history of heart attacks. My main concern was heart attacks," Gorlesky said.

Gorlesky and her doctor decided it was best for her to stop HRT.

"I feel better. I still have some hot flashes, but they're not as severe as they used to be," she said.

Gradison said many of her patients made the same decision.

"I often go by what a woman wants. A lot of women are coming in scared and they ask to go off it," she said.

However, Gradison said some women still ask for hormone replacement therapy.

"I just let them know the risk and benefits and they need to weigh those," she said.

Some doctors recommend women first try soy products or an herb called black cohosh to relieve their symptoms. Doctors like Gradison said that there is much more to learn about the risks and benefits of HRT.

"Medicine is still an art and we use science to get the evidence we can. We still don't know everything and every year we learn more," she said.

Most experts believe that combination hormone replacement therapy is safe for a short amount of time -- five years or less.