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Women have options when it comes to surgery

6/15/2011, 9:34 a.m.
Women have options when it comes to surgery

(ARA) - Being an informed health care consumer is important, not only for your wallet, but for your well being. One of the most commonly-performed surgeries in the United States - hysterectomy - is one that women might not know the whole story about. Though more than 600,000 hysterectomies are performed each year, some experts say that the number is unnecessarily high.

For women aged 35 to 54, fibroids and heavy periods are among the most common reasons for a hysterectomy, but many women do not realize that non-invasive procedures exist to treat these conditions.

For the more than 10 million women in the United States who suffer from heavy periods, also known as menorrhagia, there are less severe treatment options than a hysterectomy. The first step, however, is getting women to recognize that they even have a medical problem.

"There are so many women who think their heavy periods are just in their head and that their situation is no different than any other woman," says Dr. Whitney Pollock. "It's not just in your head -- and you don't have to live with it. There are effective treatments and the more you discuss it with other women, the more you may realize you're not alone."

For Denise Armstrong, life became an exercise in planning around heavy periods. She felt she couldn't even make a trip to the grocery store, much less make the three-hour drive to visit her in-laws or take a family camping trip. It also meant missing out on her kids' lives - she missed her son's football games because there were no bathrooms close by.

For many women like Denise, heavy periods mean changing sanitary products every hour, abandoning beloved hobbies, or even having to find a solution to getting through long business meetings. There can be other associated side effects as well.

"Women with heavy periods have an increased state of inflammation in their body, which in turn increases uterine contractions and puts the body into a state of stress," Dr. Pollock says. Other side effects include extreme cramping, fatigue and even anemia. And since these symptoms often cause women to give up on their exercise routines, good health habits often get interrupted.

For women who don't want to turn to surgery, the NovaSure(R) procedure is another possible solution. Though it is only intended for women who are finished having children, the simple, one-time procedure - which lasts about five minutes and can be done in a doctor's office with no incisions or anesthesia - has helped many women regain their quality of life.

Assuming that you have to live with a health issue that negatively impacts your daily routine and the activities you love is something that too many women do. "Above all, it's important to address heavy periods with your doctor, even if he or she doesn't address it with you," Dr. Pollock says. By simply having a conversation, many women can find solutions that put their lives back in their own hands. For more information, visit www.novasure.com.