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Doctors dispense advice after alarming hormone study

By JIM ROSS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 21, 2002

It didn't take long. Soon after the media reported about the latest study of hormone replacement therapy, patients started asking Dr. Rose Mary Sobel questions.

Sobel, a Crystal River physician who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology, said the patients had understandable concerns.

Earlier this month, researchers abruptly halted a major federal study of hormone replacement therapy. The study found that women taking certain combinations of estrogen and progestin were at increased risks for breast cancer, heart disease, strokes and blood clots.

Those risks, the study showed, outweighed the benefits of the hormones, which reduce the risks of colon cancer and hip fractures and also help alleviate menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, night sweats and the inability to concentrate.

"I've been counseling my patients as to this fact all along," Sobel said. In other words, she has told patients that certain regimens of hormone replacement therapy might slightly increase their risk of developing certain cancers or heart problems.

But she also noted that the drugs referenced in the study are just a few of the many that patients use.

"There are so many different kinds of combinations," she said.

And Sobel, like other doctors, doesn't overlook the good that hormone replacement therapy can achieve.

"There's still that quality of life," she said. "I have lots of ladies coming in here who can't function. Some people don't have that" problem. But some do.

Dr. Steven Roth said that, in the days after the study's findings were announced, his office received 20 to 30 patient calls a day from concerned women -- some of whom weren't even taking the type of hormone replacement therapy examined in the study.

"It has generated an extraordinary amount of work for our staff," said Roth, an Inverness physician who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology. He said fewer people would have been worried if the media had been more specific in reporting the study findings.

Roth has examined the study and said he probably won't start any patients on Prempro, a popular form of hormone replacement therapy. However, he won't necessarily counsel women taking Prempro to stop; instead, he will provide the facts and let them decide.

Dr. V. Upender Rao, a Lecanto physician who specializes in oncology and hematology, said the study did not surprise him.

"This is what we have known about for some time," Rao said. "They (the researchers) are saying that, on balance, there is more harm than good.

"That doesn't mean nobody should take it," he said. "But these people (researchers) are looking at nationwide figures."

* * *

ADOPTION: The Pregnancy and Family Life Center has added adoption to the broad range of services it provides.

The center, 317 W Tompkins St. in Inverness, for years has offered free and confidential pregnancy tests and counseling, plus free maternity clothing, children's clothing, food, furniture and other goods for eligible clients.

Now the center is offering free adoption services: counseling, labor support, financial assistance and family selection.

For information, stop by the center or call 344-3030.

-- Jim Ross writes about medical issues in Citrus County. Reach him at 860-7302 or jross@sptimes.com.

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