The Pros & Cons of HRT

It’s been about 5 months since my Salpingo bilateral oophorectomy.  I mentioned in my last post, that I made sure my surgeon called in the prescription for HRT (hormone replacement therapy) patches before the surgery.  I had one ready to go after I came home from the hospital and it was necessary!  About an hour or so after surgery, I started having horrible hot flashes.  I was incredibly sweaty, which is not what one wants to deal with in general, let alone after surgery, still laying in a hospital recovery room!

Not all cancer patients, or those with high risk, are candidates for HRT.  Since my breast cancer was triple negative, there is no increased cancer risk for me utilizing HRT, at least within the first 4 years or so (per my Onco).  And the long-term benefits of going on HRT at an early age, or before natural menopause starts to take effect, are big.  It can help prevent osteoporosis, early on-set dementia, heart disease, and probably even more areas I am not as versed in yet.

So far, after 5 months of being on “the patch” (and I’m not talking about a nicotine patch, but an estrogen/progesterone combo patch – exciting!), menopausal symptoms for the most part have been kept at bay. 

Some women who opt to do a full hysterectomy, only need an estrogen patch.  My patch is a combo since I still have my uterus.  The progesterone helps to keep the uterine lining from getting too thick, which can also be a cancer risk! Since triple negative BRCA related cancers tend to only affect ovaries and Fallopian tubes, keeping my uterus is considered safe.  I chose this option for this reason. Plus, recovery from a partial hysterectomy (laparoscopic), vs. a full hysterectomy with a large abdominal incision, is much easier.

What I have noticed thus far, is that I primarily do not get hot flashes.  I will say however, on days when I switch the patch to a fresh new one, I tend to be a bit more on edge.  It’s certainly not full-on PMS, but there are moments that definitely resemble it.  I no longer PMS since I don’t cycle with the absence of ovaries (I was already aware of this), and that is a big perk ladies! 

I decided to switch my patch every 3.5 days vs. every 7.  I told my OB/GYN (who was also my surgeon), that by day 5, I would start to get mild hot flashes.  I would also start to feel more mopey.  He recommended I switch it out sooner and this has definitely helped to eliminate these issues.  He said this is not the first time he’s heard of this either.  They claim the patch lasts 7 days, but in all actuality, it really only lasts about 3-4.

I’m sad to say the patch does not do much to improve my libido.  Overall my sex life has improved since recovering from cancer treatment and various surgeries.  I wouldn’t, however, go so far as to say the patch adds anything to sexual desire.  Additionally, (and this is a very intimate fact, yet necessary to share with fellow BRCA’nites and Breasties), I do need help down there.  I am not ashamed to say it!  A fellow Breastie recommended coconut oil.  It does help.  I will leave it at that!

Check it out:

Coconut Oil 🥥 🌴 😎

Time will tell how much HRT may or may not impact my future health.  I feel confident though, as much as I can at this point, that I made the right decision.  It’s good to remember that there is no exact “right” or “wrong” for anyone who finds themselves in these complicated predicaments. My recommendation is to not only listen to the medical community, but also trust your own gut instinct.

It has been challenging to say the least, to not think about all I’ve lost over these last few years.  I lost my ability to carry another biological child.  I’ve lost both my natural breasts.  I’ve lost fullness in my hair from harsh chemo (I have not given up on this yet – still using Rogaine and still thinking about trying PRP).  And, I’ve definitely lost some psychological balance in dealing with all this heaviness, but I am alive, cancer free, and have eliminated my risk of ovarian cancer. I try to hold onto that during moments of sadness.

Till next time BRCA’nites & Breasties! 

Thank you for reading.  🙂

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