This article will explore an emerging new reality that many women can easily replace one major hormone, receive substantial symptomatic relief, and at the same time, reduce the risk of breast cancer by greater than 50%. It is intended to be information (along with medical literature reverences) for your review and the review of your physician.
At some point in the life of every woman, a chemical imbalance will severely affect her well- being and her relationships. We don’t understand the interaction of these brain and body chemicals as much as we should. For some women antidepressants have been a miracle, but the same synthetic drugs have failed against placebo in many trials. For some women finding a treatment solution has been elusive. This article is intended to address one of the most common types of chemical imbalances that women experience – pre-menopause and menopause.
Although there are also new solutions for younger women with menstrual disorders and other hormone problems, this article will mainly address the new solutions that help women as they transition from a high and balanced hormone state to a low imbalanced hormone state. The solution holds out the promise of increasing health and improving symptoms of hormonal imbalance.
Before we go any further
For the purposes of this article, the term “natural” will refer to any hormone that is exactly like what the human body produces. A more exact term might be “bio-identical hormone.” For the purposes of this discussion, a horse–derived hormone (although from a natural source) will not be considered “natural” (even though technically it is not synthesized). One issue that might be a matter of common sense or presupposition actually does seem to be supported by scientific inquiry: compounds that are not natural to the human body cause significant rates of side effects, adverse reactions, and complications along with the good effects for which the compound was prescribed.
The fear and the confusion
Because not long ago there was widespread agreement that all women should undergo hormone replacement treatment, the focus of hormone replacement treatment focused on estrogen—”the female hormone.” The estrogen used for this replacement was a cocktail of several molecules that were in the estrogen family which were derived from horses. None of these molecules was identical to the estrogen molecule found in women. In many of these women an additional hormone was used to minimize the estrogen stimulation of the uterine tissue. That synthetic drug (Provera), as it turned out, increased the risk of breast cancer. Because there still were benefits with the synthetic drugs, they are still used in specific situations where the benefits outweigh the risks. Doctors were largely embarrassed regarding their inappropriate recommendation, and as a result many physicians have refrained from routinely recommending hormone replacement of any kind.
Many physicians have recognized that we should not have thrown the baby out with the bath water. Synthetic medications do offer significant relief of symptoms in some patients, and they also have many positive health benefits. There is an accumulation of data which also strongly indicates that the natural versions of these hormones also exert powerful positive benefits without nearly as many side effects. These natural versions, with proper dosing, also have the promise of improving risk factors for several serious chronic conditions, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, osteoporosis, and cancer.
Why does there seem to be so many opinions regarding replacement female hormones?
There are literally hundreds of international studies which speak to these issues. Physicians do the best job they can putting it together. Medical providers are influenced by their initial training, opinions within their specialty and individual clinical experience. There is a “culture of medicine” which tends to encourage physicians to be very cautious when it comes to shifting a paradigm. There are undeniable economic influences (is it covered by insurance?), and there are huge funding disparities between the study of synthetic and natural solutions. When confronted with the recent data, it would be very difficult for any physician to deny the proven substantial benefits offered with natural hormone replacement.
It just got simpler
It is widely acknowledged in medicine that any surgical, device, or drug intervention will be associated with both benefits and risks. The challenge, within the context of the patient- doctor relationship, is determining for a particular patient what amount of risk is acceptable compared to a potential benefit. There are legitimate differences of opinion among physicians regarding hormone replacement. There is a strong trend toward patients deciding that they want to gain the substantial potential benefits related to natural hormone therapy while accepting a small amount of risk. Old medicine said: “The doctor decides for the patient.” An improved ethic views the doctor and patient as a team. Evolving understanding of testosterone replacement makes the entire proposition much simpler. The symptomatic improvement and the strong influence on breast cancer reduction make testosterone replacement an easy choice for the vast majority of women. Additional measures can be taken that would allow patients with a history of breast cancer to qualify for testosterone replacement.
So, in women it’s all about…TESTOSTERONE?
Although it is true that men have substantially higher testosterone levels than women, many have failed to recognize that testosterone is the more prominent hormone in women as well. Most labs report the testosterone level with a different set of units. If the same units are used, it is clear that the testosterone is often 10 times more than estradiol. Although the value of testosterone has been demonstrated in many studies, the recent Glacer Study looked at 5642 women-year and demonstrated a reduction of breast cancer of over 50% with no adverse effects! In addition, 95% of the women in this study had such improvement in their menopausal symptoms, that they did not need additional hormone replacement therapy. Those improved symptoms included:
- Hot flashes
- Sleep disturbance
- Memory loss
- Menstrual headache
- Migraine headache
- Vaginal dryness
- Sexual problems
- Musculoskeletal pain
- Bone loss
A simple observation by Gregory Laurence, MD
The power of the use of natural hormones to affect the lives of patients, and alleviate the effects of chronic disease, is the single most powerful tool in the hands of physicians I have ever seen. If I were to compare these following interventions to various-sized animals, I would make the following relative comparisons:
- Mammogram —> Flea
- Anti-hypertensive medication —> Frog
- Antibiotic —> Dog
- Testosterone replacement in women —> Elephant
You have Options!
Whether you are currently healthy or you suffer from chronic disease, you are still a candidate for testosterone replacement therapy. In fact this therapy might be more important if you do have family members with breast cancer. Studies have shown that testosterone has decreased the size of an existing breast tumor. All breast cancer survivors should strongly consider testosterone therapy. You are likely a good candidate for a tic-tac-sized testosterone implant placed under your skin in the hip area. The procedure is totally comfortable, takes less than two minutes, and likely will help alleviate the majority of your hormone symptoms. There is a good chance that you can avoid the synthetic Premarin and Provera. It might be indicated that you receive natural progesterone and/or estradiol. Although testosterone is best supplied as an implant, the other natural hormones might be offered in other forms (including oral and topical). Evidence strongly suggests that you should be on some form of testosterone (whether or not you are on the other female hormones). The only commercial preparation (since 1969) was EstraTest. It is no longer available, but several compounded options are available for women. The best option is the subdermal (under the skin) testosterone implant. The timing of dosing will be every 3 or 4 months and the interval will be determined by the return (or anticipated return) of your symptoms. If you choose to have your own physician manage your testosterone, the following common dosages should be directed to a compounding pharmacist:
Testosterone gel 0.4% take 1/2 to 1 ml BID, or a stronger dose would be Testosterone 4% in lipoderm base, apply 1/8 to 1?2 ml qD.
References available by request.
Gregory Laurence, MD on Memphis’ local WREG News Channel 3
On Friday, June 12th, 2015 Gregory Laurence, MD was featured on Memphis’ local WREG News Channel 3 and discussed this convenient hormone treatment.