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4 alternatives to a hysterectomy

There are many reasons women need a hysterectomy.

Some of the most common are:

  • Heavy periods that are not controlled on hormones or an inability to take hormones to control the period.
  • Large fibroids that press on the bladder or the bowel, or are so large they can be felt on the abdomen.
  • Endometriosis (usually if this is requiring a hysterectomy it is due to both pain and bleeding).
There are several treatments to avoid hysterectomy:

  • Uterine artery embolization where microscopic plastic beads are inserted into the uterine arteries to block the majority of blood flow to the uterus.  This causes the uterus to slowly shrink in size.  The uterus may decrease to half of its normal size within 2-3 years.  Initially there is a lot of inflammation of the uterus as it loses its blood supply.  The pain associated with this will usually require ibuprofen and narcotics.  Most women stay in the hospital for overnight, and it is usually about 2 weeks before you are feeling well enough to resume normal activities.
  • Myomectomy, a surgical removal of the fibroids.  There are two ...

Breast Cancer Survival Guide: Physical & Clinical Updates

A diagnosis of breast cancer sets into motion a whirlwind of appointments, tests, surgeries and possibly chemotherapy and radiation treatment. A new study reviewed the timeline between surgery and initiating chemotherapy for different subtypes of breast cancer and found a survival advantage when chemotherapy was initiated within 30 days of surgery. Although treating within the 30-60 post-surgical window did not show a statistically significant survival advantage, there is a trend towards better outcomes. Exceeding 60 days post treatment had a negative impact on survival. The clinical impact of timing is most relevant for patients with stage II and III breast cancer, triple negative breast cancer and HER2-positive tumors.
 
Treatment for breast cancer can be exhausting and take a toll on the physical health of patients as treatment ends and they begin post-treatment life. Cancer survivors are at an increased risk of poor health, depression and physical disability. Approximately one third  ...

What you should know about ovarian cysts

Finding out there is a cyst on the ovary is often a concerning experience for a woman.  Women aren't sure what it means for them or what will need to be done.
 
A woman has two ovaries, which produce eggs, which allow a woman to get pregnant, and produce female hormones.  These hormones cause the lining of the uterus to grow, which then shed (as the period).  Ovaries are actively making hormones and ripening eggs from when the period first starts until when she goes through menopause.  As an egg is ripening in the ovary, several small cysts will form.  These grow to about 2.5 cm, or one inch, and then when the woman ovulates or releases the egg the cyst drains and is gone.  So when a woman has an ultrasound that shows a cyst less than 3 cm it is usually a "follicular" cyst - that is a cyst with a developing egg.  This type of cyst is completely normal and will come and go.
 
Cysts that are  ...

Why pregnant women should receive flu vaccine and pertussis booster

Why do we recommend that pregnant women receive both the flu vaccine and the pertussis booster during pregnancy? Here are a few reasons:
 
The influenza virus, better known as the flu, has been proven over and over to have the potential to cause serious disease in pregnancy.  That includes an increased risk that when pregnant women “catch” the flu, they may require admission to the intensive care unit, require a ventilator and, less commonly, even death.  It’s serious.   Babies of women who are infected with the flu during pregnancy are more likely to be born prematurely and are at increased risk for stillbirth.

We recommend the flu vaccine at any point in pregnancy and offer the single dose, preservative free vaccine in our office to all pregnant women (with the exception of those who have a medical reason not to get it.)  A common misconception is that the vaccine causes the flu - it does not.  Another misconception is that it is not safe for the developing baby to be exposed to the vaccine itself or the immune response it generates.  There is no evidence to support this fear in almost 50 years of administrating this vaccine and close follow up of those receiving it.

We recommend the flu shot, which is an inactivated virus. The Flumist is a live attenuated virus that is not recommended in pregnancy.

Your family members should also receive the vaccine as they can pass the flu on to a newborn who has not yet gotten the vaccine.  Babies can suffer severe complications if they are infected with the virus before they can receive the vaccine.
 
The other vaccine we recommend during pregnancy is the Tdap booster.  The benefit of the pertussis booster outweighs any perceived risk.  Pertussis, or the whooping cough, is at epidemic levels especially on the west coast including Washington State.  That may be  ...

Getting healthy for pregnancy

It’s a new year and whether you are planning to start a family or expecting a return visit from the stork, it is a good idea to prepare for pregnancy. Although pregnancy is a natural process, we often have patients ask how they can best prepare their bodies for one of life’s greatest journeys.

Below are answers to a few common questions that I often receive from my patients:


What if I am taking birth control?

Depending on the type you use, you may want to stop birth control a few months in advance of planned conception. Birth control suppresses ovulation and impacts fertility. The good news is the affects of birth control do not last long. For example, we recommend that women finish a pack of birth control pills, have their next menstrual cycle and then go through one additional full cycle before attempting to conceive. During this time, it is important to use a barrier method of contraception (condoms) if you plan to engage in sexual intercourse.

An IUD (Intrauterine Device) can thin the lining of the uterus. I recommend that patients with an IUD ....

New options for genetic testing in pregancy

Congratulations!  You just found out you are pregnant and so many things start going through your mind.  When you’re not dry heaving or completely exhausted you start planning for your exciting future but in the back of your mind you wonder… how do I know everything is okay with my baby?

We are entering an exciting time in the field of obstetrics that involves less invasive and more accurate options for genetic testing in pregnancy.  ACOG, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, recommends that all women, regardless of maternal age, be offered prenatal testing for chromosomal abnormalities. 

For quite sometime our options for this testing have been somewhat stagnant.  We have offered noninvasive risk profiling that involves a mixture of blood tests and ultrasounds at various times in the first and second trimesters to help evaluate the baby’s risk for Down syndrome or other lethal chromosomal abnormalities.  Depending on how these tests are processed, the sensitivity ranges from 80-95% with about a 5% false positive rate.  They are fairly accurate at identifying babies at higher risk, but can have false positive results (meaning an abnormal result followed by more invasive testing that shows normal results but of course this causes a lot of worry for the patient). 

Obviously we want to be able to offer testing that has a high rate of detection and a low rate of false positives.  More invasive testing is often offered also.  This testing involves removing a sample of placental cells called chorionic villus sampling, or removing a sample of fetal cells from the amniotic fluid called amniocentesis.  These cells are then analyzed for chromosomal abnormalities.  Although these invasive tests are the most accurate, they do carry a small risk of miscarriage or fetal loss. 

Fortunately, new testing has come out on the market called cell free fetal DNA testing.  This is ....

When should I have my first pelvic exam?

A good time to schedule a visit with a gynecologist (or women’s health specialist) is when you first have problems or concerns with menstrual periods, including premenstrual moods, acne around menses, vaginal discharge or any other cyclic discomfort. That appointment will involve a conversation about what is bothering you and may include a pelvic exam or may not.  Likely the doctor will ask you questions and together you will decide whether or not an exam is necessary.

Around age 13, even if you feel fine and are just wondering when you should come in for a routine exam, is a good time to schedule an appointment to discuss your female health, contraception and screening for sexually transmitted infection.  Vaccinations may be recommended if you have not already received routine immunizations. Some of the things that may be discussed include your health history, family health history, your habits with regard to diet and exercise, smoking or any drug use and sexual activities.  Some of these topics are things you may find difficult to discuss with friends and family.  In the gynecologists office we talk about those things all of the time!  Often we give you pamphlets or point to online resources for you.  The conversation is confidential and it is okay for you to remind the health care provider that you wish it to remain confidential. 

What is a pelvic exam and why might I need one?

A pelvic exam is ...

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