HT ... HRT ... EPT ... E+PT … ET … ETC … ETC ... = CONFUSION!
We will define and try to clarify the many terms and abbreviations you may encounter.
HT – Hormone therapy
HT is an umbrella term that can mean many things: estrogen-only therapy, estrogen plus natural progesterone, estrogen plus a progestin, estrogen plus MPA (a particularly strong form of progestin).
Some forms of HT require a prescription; others can be purchased over-the-counter; others may only be available in a doctor’s office. These hormonal preparations are available in pills, patches, creams, gels, injections and vaginal applications.
If you see a headline or a story or medical article about HT you obviously need to know exactly which hormones and which forms of HT it’s about. A lot of the confusion women and even doctors feel about menopause hormones comes from the careless and lazy use of the umbrella term HT.
HRT, which stands for hormone replacement therapy, is an abbreviation often used interchangeably with HT. The subject of the word replacement is complex and calls for an entire article of its own. Keep tuned.
ET – Estrogen therapy
ET refers to estrogen-only therapy. ET can be used safely only by women who do not have a uterus, i.e., have had a hysterectomy. In the 1960s it was discovered that estrogen therapy often led to overgrowth of cells lining the uterus (endometrial hyperplasia) and, after an extended time, to an increased risk of cancer of the endometrium.
Adding a second hormone (progesterone) or a progesterone-like hormone (a progestin) prevents the overgrowth of the endometrium and essentially eliminates the risk for cancer.
Progesterone or a progestin can be taken daily along with estrogen. That’s called continuous combined therapy. Or it can be taken for 12-14 days each month. Both these ways of combining estrogen plus progesterone or a progestin are abbreviated as E+PT, or EPT.
Since progesterone and progestins have important effects, including countering some beneficial effects of estrogen, you can see why we push for NOT glossing over differences between the various forms of HT.
The research findings for ET are not the same as the findings for E+PT. You need specifics to make informed decisions.
And BTW, did you notice that the last two abbreviations on the list at the top of this article are “ETC, ETC?” That’s short for et cetera (and so on).Read more in Advancing Health After Hysterectomy