Women's Health


Bio-Identical Estrogen Replacement Hormone Therapy

As a woman ages, she undergoes hormonal changes that can create a range of symptoms. The ovaries, which produce estrogen and progesterone, begin to shrink just a few years before menopause sets in. Menopause can occur anywhere between the ages of 40 and 58. The symptoms associated with menopause can vary from woman to woman, as there can be a range of different experiences that can be shared, some similar and some different. With the ovaries naturally decreasing their amount of estrogen output due to their shrinking, hormonal replacement therapy can be an effective turn-to aid to help keep a steady estrogen level in the body. 

Bio-Identical Estrogen Replacement Hormone Therapy (BHRT) is one alternative to help for not just menopause, but also peri-menopause (the phase before menopause) and Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS). BHRT utilizes extracts from natural sources to create “bio-identical” hormones that are similar to the hormones that a human body makes, this holds true for insulin products for diabetic patients also, which can be classified as bio-identical. 

All BHRT therapy must be tailored to meet each woman’s estrogen level needs to keep a healthy, steady balance. Commercially available products that can be bought through a prescription only come produced in a limited number of strengths, with patients having to cater to these manufacturing companies. By settling for one of these manufactured medicines, the patient can experience side-effects due to too much or too little of estrogen. Luckily, there are pharmacies that specialize in compounding estrogen medicines that cater to the patient’s estrogen level, forgoing any unnecessary side-effects and giving the patient the exact amount of estrogen her body needs. 

Estrogen products come in many different ways such as capsule, patch, gel, or vaginal ring. It is up to you and your physician to decide, not only the correct amount of estrogen to take, but the best way to take it. There are lifestyle changes that you can incorporate that will decrease your symptoms, such as exercise/weight-loss and diet changes. There are also over-the-counter herbal products you can take advertised for use in menopause, consult your pharmacist or physician for more information on these herbal products. Menopausal symptoms that can occur: 

  • Hot flashes and night sweats
  • Changes in sleeping pattern and insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings, such as irritability
  • Depression
  • Dry skin
  • Vaginal dryness and painful sexual intercourse
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Forgetfulness
  • Urinating frequently
  • Diminished sex drive
  • Headaches
  • At increased risk for Osteoporosis

References:

National Institue of Health. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. No. 05-5200. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. June 2005. Web. 8 July 2012

Pavlic, Brenda. Bio-Identical HRT-Balancing Hormones Naturally. Saveway Pharmacy. Web. 5 July 2012




Mammogram

Does the phrase “breast cancer” strike fear in your heart? If so, maybe it’s because you’ve lost a loved one to the disease. Or, it could be that you worry what might lie ahead if you need breast cancer treatment. Or, possibly you’ve read these statistics: for American women, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed and the second leading cause of cancer deaths.

These can be scary thoughts. Fortunately mammography, which uses low-dose x-rays to examine the breasts, can help find breast cancer early – when it’s most successfully treated. Did you know that mammograms can help detect breast cancer up to two years before either you or your doctor could feel any breast changes?2 That’s a pretty powerful screening tool. Newer advances, such as digital mammography and computer-aided detection, enhance its effectiveness even more.

With early detection, you also have a greater range of treatment options available. Chances are the surgery and other therapies you might need would be less aggressive. Best of all, of course, your risk of dying is lowered when breast cancer is caught early.

It’s important to also know that mammograms have limitations. They can’t detect all breast cancers. Even when a cancer is detected, prognosis can still be poor. And sometimes mammograms indicate cancer where it doesn’t exist, prompting unnecessary tests and procedures.

The best time to schedule a mammogram is for the week following your period when your breasts are less tender. That’s because compression is needed to get clear images and check for any abnormalities. Just remember – the test is brief! Don’t forget to inform the mammography technician about any breast changes you have noticed and if there’s a chance you might be pregnant. Also, ask when you can expect to receive your results.

In addition to mammography, you can take other steps to catch breast cancer early. For example, it’s a good idea to get know how your breasts normally feel. Report any breast changes right away to your health care providers. Starting in your 20s, you can begin doing breast self-exam (BSE). However, the American Cancer Society (ACS) no longer recommends monthly BSE. A review of studies showed that BSE doesn’t reduce deaths from breast cancer and it doubles the number of unnecessary breast biopsies (a surgical procedure to remove and examine tissue). If you do BSE, have your doctor instruct you.

Even if you’re young, share with your doctor any family history of breast or ovarian cancer in relatives on either side of your family. That’s important because screening guidelines differ for women at higher risk.

Here’s what the American Cancer Society recommends:

  • Yearly mammograms, starting at age 40 and for as long as you are in good health
  • Clinical breast exam (CBE) as part of health exams – about every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and every year for women 40 and older
  • Yearly mammograms and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – which uses magnetic signals to create images – for women at high risk. (Factors that increase your risk include a family history of breast cancer, genetic susceptibility, or previous chest radiation treatment for Hodgkin disease.)1
  • Talk with your doctor about the benefits and limitations of adding MRI screening to your yearly mammogram if your risk is considered moderately increased.

Want more information? We can help answer your questions. Or go to www.healthmart.com/




Speedy Recovery from Childbirth

It’s not unusual to feel really tired and a bit anxious or blue in the weeks after giving birth.1 With the sleepless nights, extra responsibilities, and physical changes—who wouldn’t be on a bit of a roller coaster? Remember: This won’t last forever. Plus, you can ease your recovery by taking steps like these:            

1. Sleep when baby sleeps. Sneak a quick nap when you can. Shut the blinds and silence your phone, television, and all other electronic devices.            

2. Nix household chores. Right now, your main job is to take good care of yourself and your baby. No one really cares about those lurking dust bunnies. If it really bothers you and your budget allows, then hire some temporary help. Also, remember to share parenting tasks such as diaper changes and feedings when possible.            

3. Limit visitors. But ask any guests to help out. If not now, when? Swallow your pride and ask for a hand with the dishes, laundry, or shopping. Or take advantage of a visitor to watch your baby while you nap.            

4. Eat healthy. Healthy food choices can give you more energy. But planning and cooking meals may be a challenge right now. Ask friends and family to help with this. Don’t forget to drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water a day. But avoid caffeine and sugary drinks.2            

5. Be active—within limits. Exercise can also increase your energy and reduce constipation.  Get clearance from your doctor before you:

  • Take the stairs or lift objects.
  • Drive, although this is usually okay when you can wear a seat belt comfortably and are able to make sudden movements.
  • Hit the gym or become really active.
  • Have sex. Your doctor may ask you to wait several weeks after birth.2

6. Get emotional support. You might be surprised by feeling irritable, sad, or anxious right now. But many new moms experience a wide range of feelings in the days following delivery. Part of this is related to changing hormones or fatigue and part of it is simply a response to a major life transition. These baby blues will subside soon.If you have extreme feelings that really last, seek professional help, especially if you have a history of depression. You may be experiencing postpartum depression. Up to one in seven new moms go through this—but no one should go through it alone. Some women need therapy or medication.3            

7. Set aside time to relax. Chances are no one will put this on the calendar for you, so you’ll need to do it for yourself. Listen to some relaxing music, read a book, or meditate. Even just a few minutes can make a difference. And try to carve out a few minutes each day to touch base with your partner or husband.2            

8. Seek out other new moms. There’s nothing like sharing tips and support with people who are going through similar life changes. Maybe you can even start up an informal support group in your neighborhood or among your friends.2

Your doctor and I are good resources for answering your questions. Some say it takes a village to raise a child—just think of us as your well-informed neighbors.

Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice.  You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.    

Sources

  1. March of Dimes: “Your body after baby.” Available at: http://www.marchofdimes.com/pregnancy/afterbaby_fatigue.html Accessed March 6, 2013.
  2. Nemours Foundation: “Recovering From Delivery.” Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/pregnancy_center/childbirth/recovering_delivery.html?tracking=P_RelatedArticle Accessed March 6, 2013.
  3. Wisner K, et al. JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;()1–9. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.87. Available at: http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1666651 Accessed March 24, 2013.