Women's Health Info
Alcohol Consumption and the Ovaries
Heavy and chronic drinking can lead to inadequate functioning
of the ovaries, resulting in hormonal deficiencies, sexual
dysfunction, infertility, menstrual irregularities, and early
Alternatives to Postmenopausal Hormones
All women can adopt a healthy lifestyle, such as not smoking,
regular exercise, and good nutrition. In addition, other
prescription drugs, such as statins or beta-blockers, are
available to lower blood lipid levels or blood pressure
levels. A healthy lifestyle can also help decrease a woman's
risk of bone loss. In addition, health professionals also
recommend calcium and vitamin D supplements as a means of
preventing osteoporosis. Other drugs, such as raloxifene,
tibolone, alendronate, and risedronate have been shown to
prevent bone loss. These drugs increasingly are becoming the
treatment of choice for osteoporosis in many postmenopausal
women. The investigational drug PTH (parathyroid hormone) is
another prevention approach being evaluated in clinical
Eat right to counter PMS symptoms.
Studies have shown that certain foods can help ease PMS
symptoms. These include complex carbohydrates such as pasta,
vegetables and whole grain breads and cereals. Avoid foods
that contain caffeine -- cola, coffee and chocolate can all
trigger PMS symptoms.
Device to Treat
Fibroids Wins Approval
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a medical
device to shrink non-cancerous uterine fibroid tumors, sparing
women from painful surgery to remove them.
The device, meant for women
who no longer intend to become pregnant, could also save many
from having to have hysterectomies, where the entire uterus is
Made from a material called
Embosphere Microspheres, the product is used in less invasive
surgeries that involve uterine artery embolization (UAE),
designed to block blood flow to the tumors and shrink them.
In clinical trials sponsored
by the maker of the device, Biosphere Medical Inc., 132 women
with uterine fibroids were treated at seven hospitals
throughout the United States. After six months, 65 percent of
women implanted had a 50 percent or more reduction in bleeding
attributed to the fibroids.
As a condition of approval,
the company is required to follow study participants for at
least three more years to gauge the long-term effects of the
treatment, including whether the fibroids tend to return, the
Easing Hot Flashes
To help ease hot flashes during menopause:
Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing made of natural
Limit your intake of beverages that contain caffeine or
Avoid eating rich and spicy foods.
Drink lots of cool drinks, especially water.
Avoid drinking hot beverages.
Easing the Emotional
Ups and Downs of Menopause
To ease the emotional ups and downs of menopause:
Exercise regularly for energy and to relieve stress.
Seek out and talk with other women who have or are going
Avoid stressful situations whenever possible. Incorporate
relaxation techniques into your daily life. Meditation, yoga
and massages can help ease the stress and emotional turmoil
you're going through.
Eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet and check with your
doctor about taking vitamin supplements.
Dryness During Menopause
To ease vaginal dryness during menopause:
Avoid using deodorant soaps or scented products in the vaginal
Use water-soluble lubricants during intercourse.
Avoid using oils and petroleum-based products, these can lead
Doubles Dementia Risk
Combined hormone therapy for women doubles the risk of
dementias such as Alzheimer's disease.
Combined hormone therapy also does not protect against mild
cognitive impairment, a less severe loss of mental function,
and it increases the risk of stroke.
Hormone Trial Halted
Due to Cancer, Heart Risk
Researchers announced that they have halted one of the largest
and best-designed studies of hormone replacement therapy
because women taking the hormones after menopause had a
greater risk of breast cancer, heart attack, stroke and blood
clots than those who did not take the drugs.
More than 6 million women in the US currently take
estrogen/progestin combination therapy for a variety of
reasons, including relief of hot flashes and other menopausal
symptoms. The hope--and the hype--has been that such hormones
would also confer a number of other advantages, including a
reduced risk of heart disease. The study suggests that when
women take the drugs for more than about 5 years, the risks of
the hormones clearly outweigh the benefits.
Remedies and Menopause
Many women find relief from short-term menopause-related
changes with non-prescription remedies, such as
estrogen-containing foods (soy products, whole-grain cereal,
seeds, certain fruits and vegetables) and creams, certain
herbs such as black cohosh, and vitamin E and vitamin B
complexes. Researchers are studying the safety and efficacy of
these therapies. Local non-hormonal therapy is available for
vaginal dryness and urinary bladder conditions.
Pap Test Guidelines
The American Cancer Society has revised its guidelines on Pap
tests, recommending for the first time that women at low risk
for cervical cancer don't need them.
The revisions are designed to
spare women from unnecessary, invasive medical procedures.
The new guidelines say
testing isn't needed for young women who are not sexually
active; women 70 or older who have had normal Pap tests in the
past; and women who have had hysterectomies for
non-cancer-related reasons. They also recommend that sexually
active women begin getting Pap tests within three years of the
start of sexual activity, but no later than age 21.
The problem with Pap tests,
according to the experts who wrote the new guidelines, is that
they detect non-cancerous lesions, causing doctors to perform
additional tests that needlessly worry patients, cost money
and sometimes have harmful effects, such as reduced fertility.
Risk Factor for
A big risk factor associated with gynecologic cancers is not
After years of waiting, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
has finally approved the abortion pill - aka mifepristone (or
RU 486) and within the month, doctors may be able to prescribe
the drug to women in their first seven weeks of pregnancy. But
getting RU 486 won't be as easy as, say, getting your Rx for
allergy pills filled. The FDA has ruled that each prescription
must be accompanied by an RU 486 brochure. Also, physicians
who prescribe it must be able to perform a surgical abortion
or make prior arrangements with a doctor who can in case the
mifepristone regimen fails, as it does in about 5% of cases.
Treatment with the drug (sold as Mifeprex) involves three
doctor visits. Here's the breakdown:
Step 1: The patient takes
three mifepristone tablets, which block the action of
progesterone, the hormone that prepares the uterus for
Step 2: Two days later, the
patient takes another drug to start the uterine contractions
that will expel the fertilized egg. (Pain, bleeding and
discomfort are possible side effects.)
Step 3: The patient has a
follow-up visit with her doctor two weeks later to confirm the
abortion is complete.
STD and Cancer
Get out your condoms: Doctors have recently linked chlamydia,
a very common STD, to an increased risk of developing cervical
cancer. While human papillomavirus (HPV) has long been
recognized as the leading cause of this cancer -- which
currently strikes 13,000 women a year -- the role played by
chlamydia was less clear. Chlamydia is the most prevalent
bacterial STD, with 4 million to 8 million new cases diagnosed
each year. Unlike HPV, it can be treated with antibiotics, but
since the infection often produces no symptoms, many women
carry the disease without knowing it. This finding gives
doctors new reason to screen women for chlamydia as part of
their annual gynecological checkups.
Some STDs can spread into the uterus (womb) and Fallopian
tubes to cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which in
turn is a major cause of both infertility and ectopic (tubal)
pregnancy. The latter can be fatal.
STDs in women also may be associated with cervical cancer. One
STD, human papillomavirus infection (HPV), causes genital
warts and cervical and other genital cancers.
STDs can be passed from a mother to her baby before, during,
or immediately after birth; some of these infections of the
newborn can be cured easily, but others may cause a baby to be
permanently disabled or even die.
Tampons and STD
STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) testing just got easier and
a lot less embarrassing. South African researchers have begun
using tampons to diagnose the sexually transmitted disease
trichomoniasis, which causes itching and vaginal discharge and
can increase a woman's chances of having a premature or low
birth weight baby. Some 1,000 women inserted an ordinary
tampon for 15 minutes. The tampons were then stored in a
saline solution and transported to a lab where they were
tested. The tampon test was highly effective at not only
detecting trich, but chlamydia and gonorrhea as well.