Menstrual problems are common among women. Among the different problems they face are PMS or premenstrual syndrome, irregular or missed periods, menstrual cramps and heavy bleeding or overbleeding. Though menstrual issues are a common occurrence, however severe or prolonged issues like these can signify a menstrual disorder. At an early age, these problems are just a sign of the woman’s body getting used to the natural rhythm of a menstrual cycle. However, it is best to consult so that any disorder is diagnosed and treated early.
The most common types of menstrual disorders are PMS or pre-menstrual syndrome, dysmenorrheal or menstrual cramps, amenorrhea or missed periods, and overbleeding or menorrhagia. These disorders are outlined below.
Premenstrual syndrome may occur from seven to fourteen days before a period starts; and sometimes continues for some time after the period has begun. However, the symptoms are not the same for all women. Some women feel severe pain or experience mood swings during this stage of the menstruation cycle. PMS is caused by the hormonal changes in a woman’s body that start at the point of ovulation and continue till menstruation starts. Around 85% of the female population experiences premenstrual symptoms during their reproductive years. If more than three mild to moderate symptoms are detected in a woman, then treatment for PMS is suggested since it is possible that these symptoms may disrupt her normal life.
Missed or absent periods is also known as amenorrhea. Amenorrhea can be of two types - primary amenorrhea and secondary amenorrhea. In the case of a woman who has never menstruated, the condition is known as primary amenorrhea. In case of a pregnancy, a woman misses her periods as well. This condition of missed periods is known as secondary amenorrhea.
Menstrual cramps are a common issue for women of reproductive age. This disorder is also known as dysmenorrhea. Dysmenorrhea is also of two types like amenorrhea - primary dysmenorrhea and secondary dysmenorrhea. Primary dysmenorrhea has no underlying cause. It is the name given to the cramping of the lower abdomen just before and after the period begins. Secondary dysmenorrheal pain occurs due to disorders in the reproductive system. Pain from secondary dysmenorrhea usually begins earlier in the menstrual cycle and lasts longer than common menstrual cramps.
Overbleeding, also known as menorrhagia is excessive or prolonged menstrual bleeding. Menorrhagia is also called hypermenorrhea. Menorrhagia does not include the normal heavy bleeding that is sometimes experienced during a period. Only severely heavy bleeding or bleeding that lasts longer than seven days can be termed as menorrhagia. It is often accompanied by discharge of large blood clots. The most probable causes for such bleeding are uterine fibroids or misbalanced hormones.
The above discussed disorders are the most common menstrual issues faced by women. These disorders can also be warning signs of other serious problems like endometrial cancer, uterine fibroids etc. It is advisable for women to get a regular check-up and keep track of their menstrual cycles, so as to detect any changes. Keeping a diary of symptoms and their severity through at least two to three cycles helps to evaluate any condition and is invaluable for physicians if medical assistance is required.
Endometriosis affects about 5 million women in the United States. That fact makes it one of the common health problems affecting women. The name, Endometriosis comes from the word endometrium that indicates the tissue lining the uterus. Each month, this tissue grows and then when menstruation occurs, is sloughed off to be grown again the next month.
When endometriosis occurs, this tissue grows outside the womb. Small patches grow behind the uterus, on or under the ovaries, and on the bowels or bladder. It is rare, but not unheard of, for this tissue to grow in other places in the body. Each month, as the cycle progresses, the patch grows and bleeds, but because it is not in the uterus, it has no place to go. Inflammation then results. No one knows for sure what causes Endometriosis.
Among the theories are that it is genetic, or there is a faulty immune response when endometrial tissue begins to grow outside the uterus. Pain is the most common symptom of Endometriosis. Usually the pain is in the lower abdomen, lower back or in the pelvis.
Some women will have large areas of Endometriosis with little or no pain, others with small patches will be in major pain. No reason has been uncovered yet to determine why this may be. Women with Endometriosis may have very heavy periods, painful bowel movements, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, severe menstrual cramps that worsens over time, and spotting or bleeding between periods because the endometrium may migrate to the ovaries, being unable to get pregnant frequently occurs.
A woman has a greater chance of having Endometriosis, if she started her periods at an early age, has heavy and lengthy periods, and has a close relative, who also has Endometriosis. It is important to seek medical attention, if you suspect that you may be developing Endometriosis. Many times, a woman will have symptoms for 2 to 5 years before diagnosis, due to the fact that the Endometriosis worsens over time, eventually causing enough distress to warrant attention.
The doctor will conduct the examination by doing a pelvic exam, after taking the health history. If no obvious growths show this way, the next step would be to look for large growths using ultrasound. This is a painless exam using sound waves to see inside the body.
The next choice is the do a MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) exam. It is also painless. The MRI uses magnets and radio waves to make a ‘picture’ of the body. To be 100 percent sure that Endometriosis is the problem, the doctor may decide to perform a surgical procedure called a Laparoscopy.
In this procedure, a tiny incision is made in the abdomen and a small scope is inserted to look for patches of tissue. If any are found, it is often possible to remove the patches, or destroy them with intense heat without harming the tissues around them. Women recover from this surgery much faster than more invasive types.
In some cases, it is advised and necessary to perform a major abdominal surgery, but it is considered to be the last resort. Only when no other option is possible, will a hysterectomy be chosen and then for women, who no longer wish to bear a child. There are some medications available, which will reduce the pain and other symptoms, but as of now, there is no cure.
Breast is a collection of glands and fatty tissues that lies between the skin and the chest wall. Milk is produced by the glands inside the breast when the woman has a baby. The milk gets to the nipple by way of glands through a tube called ducts.
At times, the cells in the breast grow out of control and attack the nearby tissues. Without any check, this growth spreads throughout the body and becomes breast cancer. These out of control tissues are called tumors. Some of the tumors are harmless, as they cannot spread and threaten one’s life. So they are called benign tumors. The other harmful tumors are called malignant tumors.
Any type of tissue in the breast can form a cancer but it either comes from the ducts or the glands. It takes months or years for a tumor to get large enough to feel in the breast. Screening of the breast to check for tumors is called mammograms.
Women in North America and Europe are prone to get affected by breast cancer. In fact, every woman is at risk for breast cancer. Statistics prove the breast cancer in American women are the second largest and the first largest is the lung cancer.
Some of the factors, which influence the breast cancer are being a women growing older, having a family history of breast cancer, or previous history of cancer and radiation therapy to the chest region, initiation of periods when still young, i.e., below 12 years of age, and starting menopause quite late after 50’s, never having children, or having children late after 30’s. Hormone Replacement Therapy in some cases, can also lead to breast cancer. Overweight or alcoholic women are prone to get cancer.
Proper screening and early detection are the best methods in which most of the cancer can be treated. Regular check ups with the physicians, and learn to perform breast self exam is also a natural way to check for breast cancer. X ray of the breast is called a mammogram. The breast is placed between two plates for some seconds and the x ray is taken. If something appears abnormal, then a better angled film can be taken with the magnified view.
Every woman after the age of 40 should take mammogram every year. Every month, one should check your breast on your own. About 15% of the tumors can be felt but cannot be seen in the regular mammography screen. Women above 20 and below 39 should go for check up at least once in three years. A diagnostic mammogram or ultra sound can be done and then biopsy can be sent for checking.
Breast cancer has four stages. In stage one the tumor is less than 2cms. In the second stage, it is more than 2 cms but less than 5cms. In stage three, it is more than 5 cms and spread up to the lymph nodes. In stage four, it spreads outside the breast and inside the other parts of the body.
Depending upon the stages, doctors will decide if the treatment would be surgery, or chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormonal therapy and biologic therapy. Once the patient has undergone this treatment, the follow up testing is very important.
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