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The biggest threats to women’s gynecological health: Lack of knowledge and fear

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6 Jul 2016 - General
 

The biggest threats to women’s gynecological health: Lack of knowledge and fear

 

Ignoring symptoms or delaying treatment of GYN conditions can affect women’s plans to have children later in life.

MORE than half of women in the U.S. are unclear about GYN conditions and the surgical procedures to treat them. This is significant, as up to 80 percent of U.S. women will have fibroids by age 50, over 5 million suffer from endometriosis, and more than 500,000 hysterectomies will be performed in the U.S. this year, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“Understanding GYN conditions and their treatments is essential for women to be able to make decisions about their care,” said Dr. Paul MacKoul, M.D. “This large gap in knowledge can lead women to ignore common symptoms like pelvic pain and heavy bleeding, which aren’t normal. Fear of the unknown can also be a barrier to treatment, and as conditions worsen, the harder they can be to treat with conservative methods.”

A 2015 study commissioned by The Center for Innovative GYN Care (CIGC) shows that:

• Sixty-eight percent had misperceptions about fibroids and cancer.

• More than half of women do not know whether or not fibroids will go away with menopause or incorrectly believe they will.

• Six in 10 women of childbearing age either do not know or dispute the fact that fibroids are a cause of infertility.

Delaying Treatment for Common GYN Conditions Puts Women’s Reproductive Health at Risk

“Many of the patients who come to see us have delayed treatment out of fear or other doctors telling them to watch and wait,” said Dr. Natalya Danilyants, M.D. “Irreversible damage can be done to the uterus by large fibroids or extensive endometriosis. Women who want to have children and who could have retained their ability to get pregnant if they had gotten treatment sooner end up having hysterectomies in their 20s and 30s.”

Women are continuing to wait until their 30s and 40s to have children, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This means that if left untreated, GYN conditions may affect plans to have children later in life.

Doctors have a learning curve, too
As common as they are, GYN conditions are not always managed with the most up-to-date practices. Fibroids can wreak havoc. Extreme bleeding, intense pelvic pain and infertility are just some of the symptoms but many women are told to ignore them.

“For fibroids, watching and waiting is an out-of-date practice,” said Dr. Danilyants. “If larger fibroids are detected, they should be removed. Fibroids can grow very large, distorting the uterus, disrupting pregnancies and resulting in miscarriage or preterm births, putting mother and child at risk.”

Endometriosis is a condition that remains a mystery, and is misdiagnosed on average for 10 years before finally being discovered.

“As we bring more awareness to [endometriosis] we will see more diagnosis,” said Dr. Tamer Seckin, M.D. “Early diagnosis is the best prevention for endometriosis because it allows for early intervention. It is a shame that gynecologists are missing this disease regularly.”

Patient advocacy on the rise
In 2016, there is a push to increase fibroid and endometriosis awareness through grassroots efforts. Between searches on the Internet and social media support groups for many GYN conditions, women are getting information from all angles, some that is helpful and some that is dangerous.

CIGC created a resource for the most common GYN conditions, surgical procedures that are typically used to treat them and new advancements in minimally invasive GYN surgery at GYNSurgeryInfo.org. Women travel from around the world to experience DualPortGYN and LAAM minimally invasive fibroid removal, techniques that reduce recovery time for major procedures to an average of 10 days to two weeks.

 

To add to Dr. Marinelle's comment, in the Philippines, there had always been a "stigma" when you are using for instance over the counter pills. Philippines like most asian countries is a conservative, Catholic country, to which pre- marital sex is taboo. But then I see teenage pregnancies' rate soaring higher every year. Second, we all know that pills is not just used as contraceptives, it can also be used for instance in PCOS or endometriosis. These poor patients who are afrai...
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Yes, I agree that the answer to this is awareness and education. Young girls should be made to understand that they should not be ashamed to talk to their parents and to a medical professional to ask for help regarding any concerns about pain or irregularities in their menstrual cycle. Parents also play a role in encouraging their younger children to be conscious about any reproductive health issues, especially since parents can help make their children less afraid to see a physician. The public...
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Personally, I think the root cause of this problem is how education on sexual and reproductive health is structured. In the Philippines, for example, in primary and secondary schools, this subject is usually limited to the biology of human reproduction. Discussions mainly focus on menstruation and ovulation etc. I think at an early age, students should be educated about common human diseases, like cervical cancer, for example and how it can be prevented. The importance of HPV vaccination should ...
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I have a steep learning curve too. I always thought fibroid will atrophy with menopause. I find that a lot of girls take dysmenorrhea as part and parcel of life and view extreme menstrual cramp as bad luck. Notwithstandingly, most of them only found out they have endometriosis when they face with infertility. When ladies consult me for dysmenorrhea, they seem to expect a fast consultation with a prescription of analgesia and day off from work. Some may even ridicule me for asking about their sex...
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