TMH Living Well: Watch for common GYN conditions, including cervical cancer
January is Cervical Health Awareness Month
Are you aware of the different gynecological conditions women face? It’s important to know what certain symptoms might mean — whether it’s unexpected bleeding, PMS, heavy periods or a positive result on a human papillomavirus (HPV) lab test. Here are signs and symptoms of conditions to watch for and talk with your gynecologist about.
According to the Mayo Clinic, cervical cancer can cause abnormal periods, vaginal discharge and fatigue, weight loss or nausea. Yet often there are no symptoms, and that’s why getting a regular Pap test is so important. During your Pap test, you’ll be screened for HPV — a common sexually transmitted disease that’s a big player in cervical cancer. Over half of all sexually active men and women will be infected with HPV at some point in their lives. The virus has been linked to about 70 percent of all cervical cancers.
Regular Pap tests detect cervical cancer before it develops. In fact, most women who get cervical cancer have not had a Pap test in the last five years, or ever. If it’s been a while for you, considering scheduling an appointment.
From our first menstrual period to our last, hormones play a major role in our lives. Female hormones, namely estrogen and progesterone, serve different purposes throughout the month. Estrogen gradually rises during the first half of a woman’s cycle, building up the uterine lining then dropping before menstruation. Progesterone increases in the second half and also drops before menstruation. Progesterone is the main cause for annoying premenstrual symptoms including bloating, acne, irregular moods and breast tenderness.
“Many girls experience symptoms including cramping and breast tenderness before their first period and they feel scared that something is wrong. Girls are getting their periods earlier and earlier — as young as age 9 — so explaining what to expect early on saves worry,” said Dr. Eileen Joyce, OBGYN, with The Memorial Hospital.
Peri-menopause also causes premenstrual-type symptoms in women. The Mayo Clinic lists common symptoms as irregular periods, mood changes, weight gain, breast fullness, hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness.
“The average age of menopause is 51, but symptoms can start much earlier. An underactive thyroid can mimic symptoms of menopause and PMS, so if you feel excessively tired, have irregular and heavy periods, see a doctor for an endocrine work up,” Joyce said.
Heavy bleeding, cramping
Periods are usually not terrible but add in the cramping and backaches you get from heavy bleeding and they are truly a pain. For women, heavy periods, or menorrhagia, are fairly common, especially for adolescents who recently started getting their periods and for women who are pre-menopausal. In fact, 25 percent of women who are nearing menopause report heavy bleeding. There are several causes for heavy bleeding and the most common is hormone imbalance, fibroids, polyps or benign tumors in the uterus.
“With menstruation there’s a tendency to underplay symptoms, but if something is unusual see your doctor,” said Dr. Scott Ellis, OBGYN physician with TMH Medical Clinic.
If you are experiencing bleeding between periods or after menopause, it’s a good idea to get it checked out. It doesn’t necessarily mean there is a serious problem, as unexpected bleeding has several possible causes. Maybe it simply means you are entering menopause or taking a new medicine that causes bleeding.
“There are several procedures we can do right here in the office. A hysteroscopy lets us look into the uterus to diagnose abnormal bleeding, among other things,” Ellis said.
Gynecological surgeries offered at TMH
Did you know the OBGYN doctors at The Memorial Hospital are board-certified and well trained to perform a variety of surgeries? Common surgeries they perform include C-sections, hysterectomies, prolapse repair, transvaginal slings, DNCs, permanent or semi-permanent birth control solutions and more. If you have an issue to discuss, both Dr. Scott Ellis and Dr. Eileen Joyce are available at TMH Medical Clinic, 970-826-2420.
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