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Archive for the ‘Women’s Health’ Category

What does endometriosis mean for you?

by Thomas Fromuth, MD, from UPMC Pinnacle Lititz and Ob-Gyn of Lancaster

If you are like most women, you are probably thinking “endo what?” About 10 percent of reproductive-age women suffer with this potentially debilitating disease. In fact, many famous women have or had endometriosis, including Lena Dunham, Marilyn Monroe and Susan Sarandon. Worldwide there are 176 million women suffering and yet… very few people know what it is.

What is endometriosis?

The best way to think of endometriosis is as a disease that causes killer cramps in women. Not just your normal menstrual cramps. These cramps are so bad you have to lay on the bathroom floor or on your sofa immobilized. Motrin, Aleve, Midol do not touch the pain. Worst, no one believes your pain could be that bad. They think you are overreacting or faking it, saying “Suck it up! It’s just part of being a woman.” If that is not all bad enough, you can also have heavy and prolonged menses, pain between periods, painful intercourse, and infertility. You feel isolated and alone because nobody understands and nobody believes you…sometimes not even your doctor. 

Is this you? If so, you don’t have to suffer. There is hope.

The Facts of Endometriosis

Before I get into the diagnosis and treatment of endometriosis, here are some basic facts. They’ll give you a better understanding of the disease.

  • Endometriosis is a disease where cells like those that line the uterus grow on tissues and organs outside the uterus, usually in the abdomen but elsewhere too.
  • It affects 1 in 10 women worldwide.
  • It affects women during childbearing age (from first period until menopause).
  • There is no one clear cause of endometriosis, but genetics is involved. If your mother had endometriosis, you are six times more likely to have the disease.
  • Symptoms typically begin during puberty but can start later.
  • There is an average of a 10-year delay in diagnosing endometriosis.
  • Thirty to forty percent of women with endometriosis experience infertility.
  • Endometriosis affects all races and economic classes.
  • There is no cure for endometriosis. But there is help, sometimes with medications and surgery.
  • Hysterectomy with removal of the ovaries is NOT the cure for endometriosis.

How does endometriosis affect you?

Endometriosis negatively affects a woman’s life in substantial ways. Because of this pain, you experience 38 percent more work productivity loss then those women without it. Non-work-related activities, such as housework, exercising, studying, shopping and childcare, can also be significantly impaired by its painful symptoms. Painful intercourse can cause you to not only not enjoy sex, but also to avoid sex. This often leads to difficult relationship issues.

Adolescent girls may not get help because people so rarely believed them when they complain of pain. Women who have had children often have their endometriosis misdiagnosed because they were not infertile.

How is endometriosis diagnosed?

Endometriosis is diagnosed by your doctor in a few different ways. Tests to check for physical symptoms of it include:

  • Listening – a physician with a good understanding of endometriosis will listen to your symptoms. He or she can tell a lot about whether you may be experiencing endometriosis or another condition.
  • Pelvic exam – your doctor manually feels areas in your pelvis for abnormalities like cysts or scars. This test will not directly determine whether you have endometriosis, but it can identify cysts associated with the disease.
  • Ultrasound – an abdominal or transvaginal ultrasound may be ordered. This test takes images of your reproductive organs. Although this test will not directly determine whether you have endometriosis, it can identify cysts associated with the disease.
  • Laparoscopy – although medical management is typically recommended first, laparoscopy is another diagnostic tool. While under general anesthesia, your doctor will make a small incision by your navel. They will then insert the laparoscope to look for endometrial tissue outside of your uterus. They may take a biopsy to test the tissue. Laparoscopy can provide information about the location, extent and size of your endometrial tissue.

How is endometriosis treated?

Treatment of endometriosis can vary from medications to surgery. The approach you and your doctor choose will depend on the severity of your symptoms. These treatment options include:

  • Pain medications
  • Hormone therapy
  • Conservative surgery to remove the excess endometrial tissue
  • Hysterectomy (in extreme cases) along with removal of any endometriosis if present

Unfortunately, there is no cure for endometriosis. But treatment options are available to help manage your symptoms.

If you or someone you know have these symptoms, please talk to your ob-gyn or your primary care provider. See a complete list of our ob-gyn providers online

Women’s heart health awareness month

For decades, the diagnosis of heart disease has been an afterthought in the area of women’s health.  Conventional thought led us to believe that heart disease was an issue more for men than their female counterparts.  In reality, 1 in 3 women die of heart disease every year.  That’s one woman every minute, according to the American Heart Association.

Heart disease strikes more women than men and claims more lives than all cancers combined.  Knowing your personal risk factors is the first step in preventing one’s personal risk of heart disease.  Risk factors include having a sedentary lifestyle, having an elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.  Some women may also have a genetic predisposition to heart disease.  Above all however, the one behavioral element that puts women, as well as men, at an elevated risk of heart disease is smoking.

The nicotine in cigarettes causes the user’s heart rate and blood pressure to elevate.  Furthermore, the carbon monoxide in tobacco robs the smoker’s heart, brain and arteries of needed oxygen.  Clotting risk is increased by tobacco because it damages the smoker’s blood vessels and makes their blood thicker.  Individuals who smoke also have a decreased tolerance for physical activity which indirectly lowers an individuals HDL’s, the good cholesterol that helps the body manage the bad cholesterol (LDL’s).  According to many researchers in the field of cardiology, smoking damages every tissue and organ in the human body.

This month, as we create awareness for heart disease,  take action by eliminating a risk factor you can control, quit smoking.  At Lebanon Family Health Services we are working with companies to implement tobacco free policies that include a research based tobacco cessation class for employees called Freedom From Smoking© and/or a “fax-to-quit” program.   Services are free and are available at work sites.  For more information, call Holly at 273-6741 ext. 310.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By Lebanon Family Health Services

Recently, the American Cancer Society released a hopeful report that stated that death rates from breast cancer have dropped 34% since 1990.  This sharp decrease is a strong testament to the steadfast efforts of health advocates working to promote national and local awareness campaigns about the importance of early detection and increased research for breast cancer.  Each year, this is evident in the month of October as we recognize National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

While we celebrate this progress, the fact remains that breast cancer is still the most common cancer diagnosed among women, only being surpassed by skin cancer.  In fact, breast cancer accounts for 1 in 3 of all cancers diagnosed in women.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, 40,000 women die each year from breast cancer even though it is one of the most preventable forms of cancer.

Therefore, this month we must celebrate and build on the lessons we have learned over the past couple decades.  This means continuing to spread the word about the importance of early detection and supporting efforts that have aided countless women to take control of their personal health.  This starts with knowing the common signs and symptoms of breast cancer, such as:

  • New lumps or a lump in your breast that has changed
  • Change in the size or shape of the breast
  • Pain in the breast or nipple that does not go away
  • Flaky, red, or swollen skin anywhere on the breast
  • A nipple that is very tender or that turns inward
  • Blood or any other type of fluid coming from the nipple (not breast milk)

Along with knowing the common signs, practicing basic health and wellness is essential.  By staying physically active with regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and limiting alcohol consumption a woman can reduce her risk for developing breast cancer.  Furthermore, if you are over the age of 50, you should be getting a routine mammogram.  Finally, carefully discussing with your healthcare professional the costs and risks associated with using Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) at menopause is an essential component in maintaining breast health.

For over 40 years, Lebanon Family Health has been a local resource for women to diagnose breast cancer at its early stages and as a result, has aided them in seeking treatment.  During the month of October, help support our continued efforts to combat breast cancer by participating in our “Pink Drink” campaign.  Throughout the county, various establishments are supporting this initiative by selling their featured “Pink Drink” and collecting $1 donations from their patrons.  A portion of all proceeds will assist us in continuing to bring these lifesaving practices to the women of Lebanon County.

Ovarian Cancer: The Silent Killer

Ovarian cancer is often dubbed “The Silent Killer” because it typically goes undetected until it has progressed into later stages. Sadly, only 19% of ovarian cancers are detected in the early stages according to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. The signs and symptoms of this silent killer are often described as being vague and therefore dismissed as a mild discomfort or an annoying illness. As a result, this cancer is typically detected by healthcare providers in the later stages when women are usually experiencing more severe symptoms and the condition is dire.

While the symptoms of ovarian cancer may be vague, it is important to know what they are. More importantly, it is important to note that the persistent occurrence of these symptoms is more of a key indicator of the condition. As a general rule, if a woman experiences some of the following symptoms for more than 2 weeks, she should contact her healthcare provider:

  • Bloating, upset stomach or heartburn
  • Pelvic/abdominal pain
  • Back pain
  • Menstrual changes, frequent urination or constipation
  • Pain during sex

While family genetics does play a role in ovarian cancer, only 5-10% of ovarian cancers have a genetic link. Therefore, all women should be aware of the symptoms and have an annual pelvic exam as part of their personal healthcare plan. Ovarian Cancer is detected after a woman experiences the above symptoms on a persistent basis and a healthcare provider begins to notice a change in the size of the ovary through a rectovaginal pelvic exam. If ovarian change is suspected, a transvaginal sonogram or a blood test called a CA-125 may be ordered. However, it is important to note that the “Pap Test” does not detect ovarian cancer. Pap tests detect the early stages of cervical cancer.

For over 40 years, Lebanon Family Health has been helping women to take control over their personal healthcare with affordable access to annual pelvic exams and pap test screenings.   We offer free and low cost services based on income and accept some insurance plans. Making an annual well-woman exam is something all women can do to take control of her personal health. Call 273-6741 to schedule an appointment or visit our web site at www.lebanonfamilyhealth.org.

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