To treat or not to treat
Menopause affects every woman differently. For some, this new chapter brings undesired effects and symptoms. The main treatment traditionally offered has been antidepressant, which is a solution rarely adapted to the root causes of the issue.
When menopause is underway, the relative decline of progesterone in relation to estrogen levels causes fatigue, irritability, insomnia, hot flashes as well as memory and attention deficits. This hormonal shift can be compared to a premenstrual syndrome that would stretch in length until dominating most of the menstrual cycle. Known as pre-menopause or perimenopause, this phenomenon is quite common from the mid-forties on and can persist for many years before menopause itself steps in.
Once at the menopausal stage, a woman’s body has changed; the loss of bone density often leads to osteopenia or the beginning of osteoporosis. Hormonal therapy aims to prevent this from happening. It does so by maintaining levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body, which encourages bone density by stimulating the production of osteoblasts (cells that help the formation of bone tissue). Estrogen is also known to protect the body from the relative damage menopause tends to inflict on cognitive and vascular health.
The hormonal instability that affects women during those years causes the main symptom associated with menopause: hot flashes. Called vasomotor symptom by doctors, they are defined by an abnormal response from the vascular system. It is believed that vasomotor symptoms are caused by the impact of hormonal changes on the hypothalamus, the part of the brain regulating body temperature. Hot flashes can last from two to five years, but some women experience them for much longer. Other symptoms associated with menopause are:
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Decreased libido
- Genital or urinary discomfort
- Mood swings
In short, your sexual hormones are in charge of maintaining a high metabolic rate that allows for reproduction. A drop in sexual hormones consequently slows the metabolism and accelerates the aging process.
Bio-identical Hormonal Therapy
A matter of precision
Hormonal replacement therapy is a solution offered to women going through pre-menopause or suffering from symptomatic menopause. Before any treatment is started, patients must undergo breast cancer screening as well as cervical, uterine and ovarian cancer screening. Every woman following a hormonal replacement therapy must then comply with annual mammograms, cervical, uterine and ovarian cancer screening.
We use bio-identical hormonal therapy to ensure your body receives hormones that have an identical chemical structure to that of which the body naturally produces. Many studies have shown that progesterone is much less likely to cause abnormal cell growth in breast tissue than progestin (chemically altered progesterone developed for pharmaceutical patenting rights). Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion within the medical literature when addressing these two different molecules, as progestin and progesterone are often confused for one another. It is your doctor’s responsibility to inform you of these differences when discussing whether bio-identical hormonal replacement therapy is right for you.
Your plan of treatment will be based on your particular symptoms and by the measure of your own hormonal levels. In most cases, hormonal evaluation is done by blood tests to map out your unique hormone levels.
Treating menopause and working with bio-identical hormonal therapy to alleviate its symptoms is a method that requires diligence and thorough follow ups on the part of your doctor. In the last decade, Dr. Luc Bessette has treated hundreds of patients grappling with the effects of hormonal imbalance due to menopause.