Estrogen replacement therapy is the medical administration of estrogen to replaces the vital hormone after the ovaries no longer produce it. Estrogen replacement therapy provides relief from the unpleasant symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and night sweats.
The benefits of estrogen replacement are: 1) improvement of menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, insomnia, mood swings and depression and 2) increase in bone density leading to prevention of osteoporosis. Possible benefits of estrogens include a decreased likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, improvement in lipids (cholesterol), decreased risk of colon and rectal cancer and a prevention of memory loss and cognitive decline. Some of the risks associated with estrogens are endometrial cancer (reduced if progesterone is given along with estrogen) and blood clots. Possible risks include an increase in breast cancer and gallbladder disease.
Progesterone is usually given along with estrogen, because estrogen alone (unopposed estrogen) is associated with endometrial hyperplasia and cancer. Progesterone compounds substantially decrease this risk and are usually given along with estrogen to women with an intact uterus. Some of the benefits (besides the reduction in endometrial hyperplasia and cancer due to unopposed estrogens) include prevention of osteoporosis, improved mood and better sense of well being.