|For the treatment of menopausal symptoms, HRT should only be initiated for symptoms that adversely affect quality of life. In all cases, a careful appraisal of the risks and benefits should be undertaken at least annually and HRT should only be continued as long as the benefit outweighs the risk.Evidence regarding the risks associated with HRT in the treatment of premature menopause is limited. Due to the low level of absolute risk in younger women, however, the balance of benefits and risks for these women may be more favourable than in older women.|
Medical examination/follow-upBefore initiating or re-instituting HRT, a complete personal and family medical history should be taken. Physical (including pelvic and breast) examination should be guided by this and by the contraindications and warnings for use. During treatment, periodic check-ups are recommended of a frequency and nature adapted to the individual woman. Women should be advised what changes in their breasts should be reported to their doctor or nurse (see 'Breast cancer' below). Investigations, including mammography, should be carried out in accordance with currently accepted screening practices, modified to the clinical needs of the individual.
Conditions which need supervisionIf any of the following conditions are present, have occurred previously, and/or have been aggravated during pregnancy or previous hormone treatment, the patient should be closely supervised. It should be taken into account that these conditions may recur or be aggravated during treatment with Evorel, in particular:Leiomyoma (uterine fibroids) or endometriosisA history of, or risk factors for, thrombo-embolic disorders (see below)Risk factors for oestrogen dependent tumours, eg 1st degree heredity for breast cancerHypertensionLiver disorders (eg liver adenoma)Diabetes mellitus with or without vascular involvementCholelithiasisMigraine or (severe) headacheSystemic lupus erythematosus.A history of endometrial hyperplasia (see below)EpilepsyAsthmaOtosclerosisHereditary angioedemaMastopathy
Conditions which require monitoring while on oestrogen therapy:• Oestrogens may cause fluid retention. Cardiac or renal dysfunction should be carefully observed• Disturbances or mild impairment of liver function• History of cholestatic jaundice• Pre-existing hypertriglyceridaemia. Rare cases of large increases of plasma triglycerides leading to pancreatitis have been reported with oestrogen therapy in this condition
Reasons for immediate withdrawal of therapy:Therapy should be discontinued in case a contra-indication is discovered and in the following situations:• Jaundice or deterioration in liver function• Significant increase in blood pressure• New onset of migraine-type headache• Pregnancy.
Endometrial hyperplasiaThe risk of endometrial hyperplasia and carcinoma is increased when oestrogens are administered alone for prolonged periods . The reported increase in endometrial cancer risk among oestrogen-only users varies from 2 to 12 fold greater compared with non-users, depending on the duration of treatment and oestrogen dose (see Section 4.8). Oestrogen-only therapy from 1 to 5 years in women with a uterus has been estimated to increase the risk of endometrial cancer 3-fold (from a baseline lifetime risk of about 3% for a woman aged 50 years), with effects persisting for several years after oestrogen is stopped. The addition of a progestogen for 12- 14 days per cycle in non-hysterectomised women greatly reduces this risk.Although progestogen treatment for at least 10 days per cycle reduces the risk of endometrial hyperplasia, which may be a precursor to endometrial cancer, 12-14 days per cycle is recommended to maximise endometrial protection. Such a sequential oestrogen/oestrogen-progestogen regimen results in cyclic bleeding in the majority of women.For women with a uterus who cannot tolerate or use a progestogen, unopposed oestrogen therapy can be considered but long-term monitoring is recommended, with endometrial surveillance, which may include biopsies, to be conducted annually or sooner if bleeding or spotting occurs.For Evorel 75 and 100 the endometrial safety of added progestogens has not been studied. Break-through bleeding and spotting may occur during the first months of treatment. If break-through bleeding or spotting appears after some time on therapy, or continues after treatment has been discontinued, the reason should be investigated, which may include endometrial biopsy to exclude endometrial malignancy.Unopposed oestrogen stimulation may lead to premalignant or malignant transformation in the residual foci of endometriosis. Therefore, the addition of a progestogen to oestrogen replacement therapy should be considered in women who have undergone hysterectomy because of endometriosis if they are known to have residual endometriosis.
Breast cancer The overall evidence suggests an increased risk of breast cancer in women taking combined oestrogen-progestogen and possibly also oestrogen-only HRT, that is dependent on the duration of taking HRT.Combined oestrogen-progestogen therapy: The randomised placebo-controlled trial the (Women's Health Initiative study (WHI), and epidemiological studies are consistent in finding an increased risk of breast cancer in women taking combined oestrogen-progestogen for HRT that becomes apparent after about 3 years.
Oestrogen-only therapy:The WHI trial found no increase in the risk of breast cancer in hysterectomised women using oestrogen-only HRT. Observational studies have mostly reported a small increase in risk of having breast cancer diagnosed that is lower than that found in users of oestrogen-progestogen combinations.The excess risk becomes apparent within a few years of use but returns to baseline within a few (at most five) years after stopping treatment. HRT, especially oestrogen-progestogen combined treatment, increases the density of mammographic images which may adversely affect the radiological detection of breast cancer.
Ovarian cancerOvarian cancer is much rarer than breast cancer. Long-term (at least 5-10 years) use of oestrogen-only HRT products in hysterectomised women has been associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer in some epidemiological studies. Some studies including the WHI trial suggest that the long-term use of combined HRTs may confer a similar, or slightly smaller, risk.
Venous thrombo-embolismHRT is associated with a higher relative risk of developing venous thrombo-embolism (VTE), ie deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism. One randomised controlled trial and epidemiological studies found a two- to threefold higher risk for users compared with non-users. For non-users, it is estimated that the number of cases of VTE that will occur over a 5 year period is about 3 per 1000 women aged 50-59 years and 8 per 1000 women aged 60-69 years. It is estimated that in healthy women who use HRT for 5 years, the number of additional cases of VTE over a 5 year period will be between 2 and 6 (best estimate = 4) per 1000 women aged 50-59 years and between 5 and 15 (best estimate = 9) per 1000 women aged 60-69 years. The occurrence of such an event is more likely in the first year of HRT than later.Generally recognised risk factors for VTE include a personal history or family history, severe obesity (BMI > 30 kg/m2) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). There is no consensus about the possible role of varicose veins in VTE.Patients with a history of VTE or known thrombophilic states have an increased risk of VTE. HRT may add to this risk. Personal or strong family history of thrombo-embolism or recurrent spontaneous abortion should be investigated in order to exclude a thrombophilic predisposition. Until a thorough evaluation of thrombophilic factors has been made or anticoagulant treatment initiated, use of HRT in such patients should be viewed as contraindicated. Women already on anticoagulant treatment require careful consideration of the benefit-risk of use of HRT.The risk of VTE may be temporarily increased with prolonged immobilisation, major trauma or major surgery. As in all postoperative patients, scrupulous attention should be given to prophylactic measures to prevent VTE following surgery. Where prolonged immobilisation is liable to follow elective surgery, particularly abdominal or orthopaedic surgery to the lower limbs, consideration should be given to temporarily stopping HRT 4 to 6 weeks earlier, if possible. Treatment should not be restarted until the woman is completely mobilised. If VTE develops after initiating therapy, the drug should be discontinued. Patients should be told to contact their doctors immediately when they are aware of a potential thrombo-embolic symptom (eg, painful swelling of a leg, sudden pain in the chest, dyspnoea).
Coronary artery disease (CAD)Oestrogen-only: Randomised controlled data found no increased risk of CAD in hysterectomised women using oestrogen-only therapy. There is emerging evidence that initiation of oestrogen only therapy in early menopause may reduce CAD risk.Combined oestrogen-progestogen therapy: The relative risk of CAD during use of combined oestrogen-progestogen HRT is slightly increased. The absolute risk of CAD is strongly dependent on age. The number of extra cases of CAD due to oestrogen-progestogen use is very low in healthy women close to menopause, but will rise with more advanced age
StrokeOne large randomised clinical trial (WHI-trial) found, as a secondary outcome, an increased risk of ischaemic stroke in healthy women during treatment with continuous combined conjugated oestrogens and medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA). For women who do not use HRT, it is estimated that the number of cases of stroke that will occur over a 5 year period is about 3 per 1000 women aged 50-59 years and 11 per 1000 women aged 60-69 years. It is estimated that for women who use conjugated oestrogens and MPA for 5 years, the number of additional cases will be between 0 and 3 (best estimate = 1) per 1000 users aged 50-59 years and between 1 and 9 (best estimate = 4) per 1000 users aged 60-69 years. It is unknown whether the increased risk also extends to other HRT products. Combined oestrogen-progestogen and oestrogen-only therapy are associated with an up to 1.5-fold increase in risk of ischaemic stroke. The relative risk does not change with age or time since menopause. However, as the baseline risk of stroke is strongly age-dependent, the overall risk of stroke in women who use HRT will increase with age.
Other conditionsOestrogens increase thyroid binding globulin (TBG), leading to increased circulating total thyroid hormone, as measured by protein-bound iodine (PBI), T4 levels (by column or by radio-immunoassay) or T3 levels (by radio-immunoassay). T3 resin uptake is decreased, reflecting the elevated TBG. Free T4 and free T3 concentrations are unchanged. Other binding proteins may be elevated in serum, i.e. corticoid binding globulin (CBG), sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG) leading to increased circulating corticosteroids and sex steroids, respectively. Free or biological active hormone concentrations are unchanged. Other plasma proteins may be increased (angiotensinogen/renin substrate, alpha-I-antitrypsin, ceruloplasmin). Chloasma may occasionally occur, especially in women with a history of chloasma gravidarum. Women with a tendency to chloasma should minimise exposure to the sun or ultraviolet radiation whilst taking HRT.
DementiaHRT use does not improve cognitive function. There is some evidence of increased risk of probable dementia in women who start using continuous combined or oestrogen-only HRT after the age of 65.Evorel is not to be used for contraception. Women of child-bearing potential should be advised to use non-hormonal contraceptive methods to avoid pregnancy.