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Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is taking female sex hormones to replace hormones that your ovaries no longer make after menopause. These hormones could be oestrogen, progesterone or both. If treatment for cervical cancer has triggered an early menopause, HRT may help ease the symptoms.
On this page, we talk through different types of HRT, how it can be taken, and the benefits and possible risks. In this section, we also have pages on:
There are 2 main types of HRT:
There are some other hormone therapies, such as progestogen-only, but these are used less often.
If HRT does not affect the cervical cancer or your treatment, there is no reason you should not have it if you want to. However, you may feel uncomfortable or upset at the thought of another treatment, so take some time to think about it. It may help to speak with your doctor so you feel completely confident about any decision.
You can have HRT in different ways. It may be difficult to decide which type of HRT is best for you. Your doctor can advise about which type is most likely to ease any menopausal symptoms you have. You may need to try a few different types to find one that suits you.
|Ways to take HRT||When to take HRT||Types of HRT|
|Tablets||Once a day||
Oestrogen-only and combined
|Skin patch||Once every few days||
Oestrogen-only and combined
|Gel||Once a day||
|Vaginal oestrogen||Once a day||
If you have a womb, you may be offered progestogen-only HRT alongside oestrogen. This is usually given through an intrauterine releasing system (IUS), which is a small, T-shaped plastic device that is put into your womb. A progestogen-only IUS can stop that lining of the womb from becoming thicker (endometrial hyperplasia). An IUS is put in once every 5 years.
If you have had premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) or an early menopause, it is important to take HRT until the age of about 50, as this is when the menopause would naturally start. After this age, you can review your symptoms and risk factors to decide if you want to continue HRT.
If you have any questions or worries, tell your healthcare team. They will know your individual situation and can support you.
Like most medicines, HRT may cause some side effects. Any side effects usually go away within 3 months of starting HRT.
Side effects of HRT include:
If you are worried about any side effects, including ones we don't mention here, speak with your healthcare team. They will be able to help you manage them.
HRT helps make symptoms of the menopause better, which can improve your quality of life. It may help you feel like you again and mean you can continue your usual routine with less disruption.
There have been lots of news stories about the risks associated with HRT, which may have worried you. Like all treatments, there are some risks that come with taking HRT. But most of these risks are small and the benefit to you may outweigh them.
It is important to remember that other factors, like your age and the dose of HRT you take, also contribute to any risks.
It is true that using combined HRT for more than 5 years increases your risk of developing breast cancer slightly – but it is important to understand that this is a very small risk. For example, being overweight or having 3 alcoholic drinks a week are bigger risks in developing breast cancer. Once you stop taking HRT, your risk goes back to normal over time.
Like with breast cancer, your risk of developing ovarian cancer increases slightly if you use any type of HRT for more than 5 years. Again, it is important to understand how small this risk is – in real terms, an extra 1 in 1,000 HRT users may develop ovarian cancer . Once you stop using HRT, your risk goes down again over time.
Evidence shows that:
In real terms, less than 2 out of every 1,000 women who have been using HRT for over 7 years will develop blood clots, so the risk is small.
These risks can sound worrying, especially after a cervical cancer diagnosis. But it is important to understand these risks are small and, for most people, the benefits of taking HRT outweigh any risks. If you have questions or are worried about taking HRT, it is best to speak about your individual situation with your doctor.
It may take some time for you to decide whether HRT is right for you. You may feel more comfortable making a decision after reading through the benefits and risks, and speaking with your doctor – they can help you make a decision based on your individual situation and preferences. We are also here to support you:
If you have heard about HRT shortages and are worried about what that may mean for you, your doctor is the best person to advise on your individual situation. For further information, Dr Louise Newson, a menopause specialist, has written about the shortage for Gransnet.com. Read the blog >
The Daisy Network
Provides support to women, along with their families and partners, who have been diagnosed with premature ovarian insufficiency.
An independent website providing up-to-date, accurate information about the menopause, menopausal symptoms and treatment options.
The NHS website has more information about HRT, including alternatives.
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
Has an information hub about women’s health covering the menopause and beyond.
Women’s Health Concern
The women’s arm of the British Menopause Society (BMS). Provides a confidential, independent service to advise, reassure and educate women of all ages about their gynaecological and sexual health, wellbeing and lifestyle concerns.
Thank you to all the experts who checked the accuracy of this information, and the volunteers who shared their personal experience to help us develop it.
We write our information based on literature searches and expert review. For more information about all the references we used, please contact [email protected]