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'Women's Health' posts

Getting a mammogram

Frequently women will ask me: Where should I get my mammograms? There are several things to think about.

First, you want to go to a Center that is accredited by the American College of Radiology. This means that they have high quality images and well-trained radiologists. It is preferable to have a digital mammogram but if that technology is not available, then film mammograms are better than not having one done. While it is not clear that digital mammograms improve survival, they do allow the radiologist to examine the images more clearly and to use computer assisted diagnostic tools.

The radiologists’ experience is also important. Dedicated breast centers usually have radiologists who are specialized in breast imaging. These sub-specialized radiologists are very experienced in using mammograms, ultrasound, and breast MRI to diagnose breast disorders and are less likely to miss abnormalities.

Convenience is also a consideration. You want to make it easy to get your mammograms. Some Breast Centers will have mobile mammography programs that will bring mammogram screening to your place of work, local community or senior center, or even your church or synagogue. If possible, it is a good idea to get your mammograms at the same Center or within the same hospital system every year. That way the radiologists have easy access to your prior studies and can compare them to the current ones.

Here are some other things to know about getting mammograms:

Swedish Set to Open Comprehensive True Family Women’s Cancer Center

SEATTLE – May 29, 2012 – Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI) is set to open its new True Family Women’s Cancer Center to patients on Tuesday, June 5. Carefully designed with the female cancer patient in mind, the new 23,600-square-foot women’s cancer center gives Swedish Cancer Institute the ability to consolidate most of its services for treating women’s cancers into one facility. The new center acts as a treatment hub where women are guided through personalized and coordinated multidisciplinary treatment of their cancer, including disease-specific education and holistic support activities.

Hormone therapy

Symptoms associated with menopause have been treated with estrogen and progesterone for many years. When I went into private practice in 1986, we had been taught that hormones given to postmenopausal women were protective. We prescribed them widely, like they were vitamins. If menses stopped, the next thing to do was to take hormone replacement therapy. We asked patients to let us know when their menses stopped so that we could administer hormone therapy promptly.

Today we have concerns about hormone therapy. The Women’s Health Initiative was a large study that collected data on the incidence of heart disease, stroke, cancer and bone fracture in women taking hormones as compared with women who did not take hormones in menopause. In 2002, a large portion of the study was discontinued because it appeared that women taking estrogen and progesterone were at increased risk for heart disease, stroke and breast cancer.

In 2002 many women went off of hormone therapy and many physicians stopped prescribing it. In the months that followed, many women found that they had symptoms of menopause that interfered with their lives. The consumer media began reporting on natural and bio-identical hormones. Claims surfaced of superior safety.

What are natural hormones?

Are You Up to Date on Your Pap Smear?

Recent changes to Pap guidelines may have you wondering when exactly you need to have a pap smear and in turn, how often you really need an annual exam with your gynecologist. Here I’m going to review the new pap guidelines so you can determine if you are up to date! Of course, every patient should check with their physician about what they recommend regarding the timing of cervical cancer screening because some specific populations may have different recommendations. These are just the general guidelines.

Pap smears are a screening test for cervical cancer. They have helped decrease the incidence of cervical cancer by more than 50% in the last 30 years. Over the last decade we’ve also begun testing for HPV (or Human Papillomavirus) which is by far the most common cause of abnormal pap smears and cervical cancer. It is an incredibly common sexually transmitted virus that can be spread by genital to genital contact but also oral to genital and manual to genital contact. It has been estimated that 75 to 80 percent of sexually active adults will acquire a genital tract HPV infection before the age of 50. Luckily, most HPV-infected women, especially younger women, will mount an effective immune response to the virus and will never develop dysplasia or cancer.

HPV is not like herpes —YOU CAN GET RID OF IT! The amount of time it takes to get rid of the virus varies but most experts think it takes an average of 8-24 months. Women with persistent HPV infections are more likely to get dysplasia and if it goes undetected or untreated, over time it can develop into cancer. HPV infections of the cervix do not cause symptoms and can only be detected by pap screening. Unfortunately we don’t have a cure for HPV, but vaccinations are available and FDA approved for girls and now boys ages 9-26. More on HPV is sure to show up in future blog posts, so stay tuned!

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends starting pap screening ....

Mammography-Detected Breast Cancer in 40-49 Year-olds Has Better Prognosis

SEATTLE, Feb. 23, 2012 – Based on a study of nearly 2,000 breast-cancer patients, researchers at the Swedish Cancer Institute say that, in women between the ages of 40 and 49, breast cancers detected by mammography have a better prognosis. The study appears in the March issue of Radiology.

“In our study, women aged 40 to 49 whose breast cancer was detected by mammography were easier to treat and had less recurring disease and mortality, because their cancer was found at an earlier stage,” Henry Kaplan, M.D., medical oncologist with Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI).  

NBC's TODAY show Airs Story on the Grandparents Class Offered at Swedish

Swedish Offers Comprehensive Diabetes Care for Pregnant Women; New Service Designed to Help Patients With Diabetes Deliver Healthy Babies

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