Today there are many methods of birth control, or contraception, that offer a high degree of safety and effectiveness. Birth control allows you to choose if and when you wish to have children and to plan your family just as you plan other aspects of your life. Without using any type of birth control, up to 85 percent of sexually active women would be expected to become pregnant within a year. Some types of birth control, such as condoms and spermicides, offer added protection against sexually transmitted diseases and cancer of the cervix.
Abnormal bleeding may be caused by any number of problems, including fibroids, endometrial polyps, changes in hormone levels, infection or cancer. If you experience abnormal bleeding, call your physician immediately.
Breast cancer is a condition in which breast cells grow abnormally and divide without control or order. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women. Early detection and prompt treatment help many women live long, full lives.
Patients who suspect or have been diagnosed with breast cancer should consider meeting with our breast care specialists. High-risk patients also can participate in the world’s largest breast cancer prevention trial, called STAR. In conjunction with the Clinic’s Cancer Care centers, patients have access to leading-edge medical therapies, as well as clinical trials. Our plastic surgery and breast center staff work together to offer breast reconstruction following cancer surgery.
Breast disease includes breast pain, nipple discharge, breast lumps and swelling, fibrocystic disease and breast cancer. Breast specialists thoroughly evaluate patients by performing breast exams and, if necessary, diagnostic tests such as mammograms, ultrasounds or biopsies. Risk assessment and prevention may also be performed.
Early detection of breast abnormalities through regular breast screenings is the key to maintaining breast health and reducing your chance of breast cancer. Regular breast screening includes performing monthly breast self-exams, getting annual breast physical exams from your physician and following the American Cancer Society’s guidelines for mammography.
The incidence of cervical cancer, in its invasive form, has decreased over the past several decades. However, recent evidence shows that the risk of cervical cancer is linked to repeated human papillomavirus (HPV) infections. HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. Because HPV usually doesn’t cause symptoms, infected persons often don’t know they have it. Cervical cancer is highly curable when identified and treated early. When performed regularly, PAP smears can detect cervix changes early so any abnormalities can be treated right away.
According to American Cancer Society estimates, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer and cancer deaths among American men and women. Every year, more than 130,000 new patients are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 46,000 colon cancer-related deaths occur. Unfortunately, many colorectal cancers are "silent" until they become advanced, at which time they begin to produce symptoms. However, through regular screenings, colorectal cancer is preventable and, if detected early enough, curable. Screening recommendations depend upon an individual’s personal risk of colorectal cancer.
Women are twice as likely than men to develop depression. In fact, 10 to 25 percent of women will experience an episode of major depression at some time in their lives, and there are several reasons for this. Hormonal changes associated with the reproductive cycle may cause depression, especially during the premenstrual, postpartum and perimenopausal periods. Stressful lifestyles, such as trying to balance a home and career may contribute to depression. Women in midlife are faced with certain challenges, such as aging, marital changes, "empty nest" syndrome, competition with adolescent daughters and bodily changes (e.g. menopause), that also may contribute to depression. The increased incidence of depression in women may also be because women report symptoms of depression more readily than men and are more likely to seek help. Whatever the cause, treatment for depression is available.
Diabetes, or "high sugar," is a chronic disease that results when the body does not make enough insulin (Type 1 Diabetes) or the insulin does not do its job properly (Type 2 Diabetes). Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States; there is no cure.
If left untreated, diabetes can lead to many other problems, including blindness, cataracts, kidney failure, nerve damage, heart disease and vascular disease that often requires amputations. The good news is that diabetes can be controlled with proper nutrition, regular exercise and, for many, medications. Controlling one’s glucose levels can dramatically reduce the chances of developing diabetes-related complications.
Common among girls and women, eating disorders are mind and body illnesses in which eating habits and attitude about one’s body become harmful. A person may move from a healthy desire to lose some weight to the use of extreme methods of dieting, including intermittently fasting, purging (through vomiting, exercise and use of diet pills and diuretics) and other unhealthy eating or lifestyle-related habits. Eating disorders can be seen in children as young as three and in women in their nineties; five to 10 percent of eating disorders are found in males.
There are three main types of eating disorders. One is anorexia nervosa (characterized by intentionally starving oneself). Another is bulimia nervosa (characterized by binge eating followed by some means of compensatory behavior, such as vomiting or exercise). The third type is referred to as "eating disorder not otherwise specified," a catch-all category that includes individuals with abnormal eating attitudes and behaviors. For example, a person may have a binge-eating disorder in which they binge but don’t purge. Others may have behaviors consistent with anorexia or bulimia, but they haven’t lost weight, or they haven’t lost their periods yet.
If left untreated, eating disorders often will get worse and result in life-threatening medical complications including harm to internal organs and risk of sudden cardiac death. Early detection and treatment of eating disorders are crucial.
Prevention and treatment of eating disorders usually include a multidisciplinary approach from a number of trained specialists such as a registered dietitian versed in eating disorders to help ensure adequate food choices; a psychologist and/or psychiatrist to help build stress management skills; and a medical doctor to monitor physical health.
Endometriosis is a condition whereby fragments of the inner lining of the uterus develop in places outside the uterus, such as within the uterine wall, in the ovaries, or sometimes in the fallopian tubes, the vagina or the intestine. Not all women with endometriosis experience symptoms. Typical symptoms include abdominal cramps or back pain during menstruation; painful bowel movements; painful urination, especially during menstruation; abnormal or heavy bleeding during periods; painful sex; and difficulty becoming pregnant. Severe cases of endometriosis can lead to infertility. Although there is no cure for endometriosis at this time, there are medical and surgical treatments to reduce the size of tissue growth and to relieve painful symptoms.
Female Sexual Dysfunction
Female Sexual Dysfunction is defined as a disturbance in, or pain during, the sexual response. It is estimated that 25 to 63 percent of American women suffer from FSD. Sexual problems can occur in the areas of arousal, desire and orgasm. In addition, some women experience pelvic and genital pain with or without intercourse.
Fitness is defined as the ability to perform moderate to vigorous physical activity without undue fatigue. Fitness can be maintained throughout one’s lifetime, regardless of age or sex, and often despite many pre-existing medical conditions. It is believed that many cases of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and arthritis could be prevented by regular exercise. Exercise helps decrease the risk of chronic disease, as well as provide stress relief. Besides all of the above, it’s fun!
The leading killer of women is not cancer, but heart disease. Although women know what they need to do to prevent this disease-maintain a healthy weight, don’t smoke, eat a healthy diet and seek treatment of hypertension, high blood lipids and cholesterol-most are not taking these steps. The facts are:
- 50% of adult women are overweight
- 75% eat fewer than five daily servings of fruits and vegetables
- 33% don’t get any exercise
- 20% smoke
Symptoms of a heart attack are different in women than men. Women may experience nausea, dizziness, breathing problems, back, jaw or neck pain, in addition to chest pain.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
For many women the benefits of hormone replacement therapy appear to outweigh the risk. Hormone replacement therapy is the best therapy for treating menopausal symptoms and preventing menopausal-associated bone loss. However, hormone replacement therapy may increase the risk of blood clots and gallbladder problems in some women. Short-term hormone therapy does not increase the risk of breast cancer; the risk of breast cancer associated with long-term hormone replacement therapy is still actively being studied.
Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus and possibly other organs and tissue. Most often, a hysterectomy is performed in order to treat abnormal vaginal bleeding; severe endometriosis; severe uterine fibroids; increased pelvic pain related to the uterus but not controlled by other treatment; uterine prolapse; and cervical or uterine cancer. Today, there is a minimally invasive surgical procedure available for hysterectomy and, in some cases, alternatives to hysterectomy.
Incontinence (urinary and fecal)
Incontinence is the inability to control the passage of urine or stool. Often, embarrassment and the stigma associated with incontinence prevent the person from seeking treatment, even when incontinence threatens her quality of life. It is important to know that urinary and fecal incontinence can be cured or significantly improved once the underlying cause has been detected.
Given the intricate nature of the human reproductive system, it is not surprising that approximately one of every six couples will not be able to conceive a child after trying for one year. For couples who want to have a child of their own, infertility is like a roller coaster ride of emotional highs and lows. One important step in reducing the feelings of frustration and helplessness associated with infertility is to access the latest in advanced reproductive technology. Fortunately, advances in the treatment of infertility are helping more and more couples achieve their dreams of conceiving their own child.
Mammography is a way to detect abnormal growths or changes in breast tissue. To perform mammography, a health care provider takes an X-ray of the breast tissue. This X-ray is called a mammogram. Screening guidelines suggest women have yearly mammograms beginning at age 40.
Menopause is an important time in a woman’s life. The ovaries stop making eggs and the female hormones precipitously decline. This may or may not lead to symptoms and health consequences. Menopause is an excellent time for a woman to reevaluate her overall health status and visit a physician for a menopausal risk assessment.
The term menstrual disorders encompasses many syndromes affecting women of childbearing age. The disorders can include premenstrual difficulties, painful periods and ovulation, and headaches related to menstruation. Although all of these problems are different, they have one thing in common: These disorders significantly affect the lives of otherwise healthy women on a monthly basis.
Mental disorders are more common than cancer, diabetes or heart disease. During a given year, roughly 23 percent of American adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder, such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, chemical dependency or eating disorders according to the U.S. Surgeon General.
Mental illness is a general term that refers to a group of brain disorders that affect the way a person thinks, feels, behaves and/or relates to others and to his or her surroundings. While the symptoms of mental illness can vary from mild to severe, a person with mental illness often is unable to cope with life’s daily routines and demands.
Many "physical" factors, such as heredity and brain chemistry, play a role in the development of a mental illness. As such, many mental disorders can be treated effectively with medication, psychotherapy (a type of counseling) or a combination of both.
The National Headache Foundation estimates that 28 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches. They occur about three times more frequently in women than in men. Migraines can last anywhere from four to 72 hours and can be debilitating. Researchers believe that migraines are caused by inherited abnormalities in certain areas of the brain. People with migraines may inherit the tendency to be affected by certain migraine triggers, such as fatigue, bright lights and weather changes. Avoiding triggers is the best preventive measure, but many medications are available to help prevent and treat migraine headaches.
Research over the last few years has shown that the way people eat has a lot to do with how healthy they are-and how healthy they stay. This research also has shown that eating a healthy diet that is low in fat, high in fiber and includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, may help to lower cancer risk. In addition, some foods contain properties that may prevent and even help treat disease, from cancer to heart disease and osteoporosis.
For the child, adolescent and young adult in particular, care must be taken so that a low-fat diet does not mean a no-fat diet; their bodies require a minimum of 30 to 50 grams of fat per day to maintain brain and body health. They also require two to three 3-oz. servings of protein each day.
Obesity is a common problem in the United States, affecting nearly 40 million adults. Defined as an excess of total body fat, obesity can be assessed by calculating body mass index using a person’s height and weight. A variety of factors contribute to obesity, including genetic, environmental and psychological. Because obesity can be hazardous to our health, it is absolutely essential that it be treated properly.
Osteoporosis, also known as the "silent thief," is a major health problem affecting up to half of all women. Women are more likely than men to get osteoporosis because women have less bone density. At menopause, half of all women lose bone mineral density at a rate of five percent per year. In addition to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, postmenopausal women should make sure to get enough calcium, vitamin D and exercise to help prevent osteoporosis.
Although rare, ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest cancers in women. It is difficult to detect, but when the cancer is caught early, the five-year survival rate is about 95 percent. Symptoms of ovarian cancer, which often include abdominal or back pain, bloating, feeling full early after eating, nausea and constipation, are frequently associated with other illnesses. At this time, there are no routine screening tests for ovarian cancer. A pelvic exam, performed during a woman’s "annual" examination, may identify an ovarian mass. Ovarian cancer is more common in women with breast cancer or a family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer.
Pelvic Floor Disorders
Specialists in urogynecology, a subspecialty area of gynecology, concern themselves with pelvic floor disorders that include fecal and urinary incontinence; rectal, vaginal or bladder prolapse; constipation and diarrhea; and pelvic floor pain. A wide variety of surgical and medical treatments are available for pelvic floor disorders, including minimally invasive techniques to treat urinary incontinence and vaginal prolapse.
Pelvic Pain (chronic)
Chronic pelvic pain is defined as pain-unrelated to menstrual cramps-in the lower abdomen and pelvic area that lasts at least six months. There are many different causes of chronic pelvic pain, including uterine fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, intra-abdominal scar tissue, stress, urinary tract or bowel diseases, and overly tense pelvic floor muscles, to name just a few. Your physician can help identify the source of the pain with exams and tests. If necessary, he or she may recommend laparoscopic exploration. Even if the source of the pain cannot be identified, treatments and techniques are available to help you manage the pain.
Maintaining reproductive health should be a priority for every woman, regardless of whether or not having children is a goal. Scheduling regular screening exams and seeking treatment for disease are important to maintaining good health. Regular screening exams include Pap smears to screen for cervical cancer and mammograms to screen for breast cancer. Eating right and exercising regularly also are critical. Certainly, if a woman plans to become pregnant, extra consideration should be given to developing and maintaining healthy habits that have a direct effect on the fetus, such as avoiding smoking.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Diseases that are sexually transmitted can affect both women and men. Often there are no symptoms; when symptoms do occur, immediate treatment should be obtained. Both sexual partners must be treated to avoid spreading the disease. To protect against STDs, women and men should limit their sexual partners. Mutually monogamous relationships and regular use of a condom are the best protection. Spermicides can provide additional protection from STDs.
This program serves to help female athletes achieve optimal health and sports performance by preventing injuries, providing expert guidance for exercise and nutrition, and returning injured athletes back to an active lifestyle. Led by Susan Joy, M.D., a primary care sports medicine physician, this program serves both orthopaedic and medical needs of female athletes at any level.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland found at the base of the throat. Its purpose is to control the body’s metabolism by producing hormones, T4 and T3, which tell the body’s cells how much energy to use. When the thyroid produces too much hormone, the body uses energy more quickly than it should. This condition is called hyperthyroidism. When the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormone, the body uses energy more slowly than it should. This condition is called hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism can cause fatigue, weight gain and depression. Thyroid nodules and goiter are other conditions that may affect the thyroid gland. Currently, about 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease, and women are more likely than men to have thyroid problems.
Thyroid dysfunction can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. Nodules of the thyroid may require aspiration (sampling fluid for diagnosis). Treatment of hypothyroidism (under function) involves normalizing the thyroid hormone level with synthetic thyroid hormone (pills). Treatment of hyperthyroidism may involve medication, radioactive iodine or, occasionally, surgery. Depending on results of aspiration, treatment of nodules may involve surgery.
Urinary Tract Infections
Bacteria are normally present in some parts of the body, such as the vagina and rectum. However, when bacteria invade a part of the urinary system, infections can occur. Women are more likely than men to have urinary tract infections, because a woman’s urethra, vagina and rectum are close together. Also, because the urethra is fairly short, it is relatively easy for bacteria from the vagina or rectum to travel up the urethra into the bladder and then to the kidneys. The typical symptoms of a bladder infection are frequency, urgency and pain with urination.
Uterine fibroids are non-cancerous nodules that most commonly develop within the wall of the uterus. They may grow as a single nodule or in clusters and may range in size from 1 mm to more than 20 cm (8 inches) in diameter. Most fibroids do not cause any symptoms and do not require treatment other than regular monitoring.
If symptoms are present, they may include excessive or painful bleeding during menstruation; bleeding between periods; a feeling of fullness in the lower abdomen; frequent urination from a fibroid pressing on the bladder; pain during intercourse; and low back pain. Treatment, including minimally invasive surgery, is available for patients with severe symptoms.
Women’s Health Center staff can determine if a woman with fibroids is a candidate for a new, non-surgical procedure called uterine artery embolization.