The Recent Drop in the Breast Cancer Rate is Due to Women Not Taking HRT

Beth Brophy Health Guide
  • Now that I’ve read and digested a few of the stories about the recent drop in breast cancer, most likely due to women not taking HRT pushed on them for years by doctors for the symptoms of menopause, I have to say my take is slightly different than that of my fellow blogger P.J. Hamel.

    Yes, it’s great news that the breast cancer rate has dropped. But my WOW is that it makes me really, really angry that for years women were strongly encouraged by their doctors to take such a potentially harmful drug.

    Today’s NYT reports the range of reactions from women around the country to the news, from fury to disbelief, at how their doctors “pushed” the drugs on them. While some women say they still want to take the hormones to relieve their symptoms, many of them stopped at the first reports of the links between HRT and cancer.
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    The news reminds me of an ongoing debate I have with my mother, who steadfastly refuses to take most drugs because of her staunch belief that every drug causes an equally serious or worse side effect. Thus, she would rather suffer with her chronic stomach problems, and bouts of sleeplessness, than go to doctors and try to find medications to relieve her problems, as I often advise. To me, her anti-drug position is similar to her stubbornness about refusing to use a cell phone or learning how to use a computer, a throwback to modern times and technology.

    Today, I’m going to call her and tell her that this breast cancer news supports her position on drugs. I’m sure many women who took HRT and went on to be diagnosed with breast cancer are pretty angry, and with good reason. I spoke to a friend yesterday who said she had several arguments with her gynecologist because she refused to take his advice about HRT, but she finally feels vindicated. I agree with the woman quoted in the NYT today, who said her doctor finally wore her down, and she ended up taking the hormones for about a year. She says she hopes that the doctor remembers all the patients like her, whom he put at risk for breast cancer.

    I hope the good news about the decline in breast cancer rates does not overshadow the real moral of the story for me: that doctors don’t always know best, and it’s wise to be an educated medical consumer, and follow your own instincts.

Published On: December 18, 2006