These days, more and more women are prone to diseases, especially when it comes to our reproductive health. The stress of today’s fast-paced lifestyle, coupled with environmental hazards and pollution, make us more vulnerable to certain physical conditions and illnesses than our mothers and grandmothers were. Luckily, with science and technology becoming more and more advanced, doctors and experts can zap out these health hazards early. Check out this handy guide to the more common reproductive health concerns women face today.


MYOMA/FIBROIDS

The term “myoma” is interchangeable with “fibroid.” “Myomas are benign growths in the uterus,” describes Marie Victoria S. Cruz MD, a fellow of the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society and obstetrician-gynecologist at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City. “It’s a very common occurrence among women, when there is a proliferation or dumadami ang muscle in the uterus.”

Tell-tale Signs: Doctors watch for bleeding, pain, pressure, and infertility. Though not cancerous, one should be wary of myomas since having it can lead to infertility or the inability to conceive.

Treatment: “Not all patients warrant surgery,” says Dr. Cruz. Myomas are usually caused by hormones and/or a genetic family history. Dr. Cruz explains that “there is no 100 percent way of treating it through medication, though we prescribe medication in some cases to control a patient’s hormonal levels.” Surgery is only recommended when the growth is big and the patient is experiencing bleeding, pain, and pressure. The most drastic surgery perhaps would be a hysterectomy, but of course, the scope of the surgery will depend on the recommendation of your doctor.

Medication can be used, but Dr. Cruz also says that if a woman near menopause develops myomas, they just wait it out since the lessening of hormones will help “remove” or eradicate the growth.


POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME (PCOS)

As the name suggests, polycystic ovarian syndrome is the growth of multiple cysts on the ovaries. PCOS is determined through ultrasound.

Tell-tale Signs: According to Dr. Cruz, women who develop PCOS usually experience the following conditions: obesity, amenorrhea (no menstruation) or irregular menstruation, excess hair growth, and acne. Dr. Cruz adds that women who have PCOS are often linked to having a metabolic syndrome such as diabetes or obesity.

Treatment: While medication can be prescribed by your doctor (metformin for diabetics, or hormone pills), more often than not, what is really recommended is a proper diet and regular exercise to regulate weight and hormonal levels.


CERVICAL CANCER

Cervical cancer became a buzz word around 2008, when reports about an increase in women having the disease surfaced. At risk are those who “have Human Papilloma virus or HPV infection, had multiple sex partners, a husband whose previous wife died of cervical cancer, had intercourse and childbirth at an early age, smoke, and have lowered immune resistance,” says Dr. Cruz.

Tell-tale Signs: “Spotting of any form or bleeding, especially following intercourse, foul smelling vaginal discharge, and pelvic or lower abdominal pain are common symptoms of cervical cancer,” warns Dr. Cruz. But the red flag for cervical cancer is the inability to pee or urinate. If you experience any or all of these symptoms, consult with your OB immediately.

Treatment: “Treatment depends on the stage. It can be in the form of surgery in an early stage; however, if it’s already at a late stage, treatment will be via radiation or chemotherapy,” says Dr. Cruz. This is why a lot of doctors are recommending vaccination, which is “80 percent effective.” There can be some side effects, such as “pain on injection site, which may persist for one to three days, but it is relatively safe,” says Dr. Cruz.


ENDOMETRIAL POLYPS

Similar to myoma/fibroid, endometrial polyps are another type of growth in the lining of the uterus, describes Dr. Cruz. “It is very common: One out of three or four women may have polyps.”

Tell-tale Signs: There is no clear tell-tale sign for endometrial polyps, aside from abnormal vaginal bleeding, which is a serious indication (in which case the polyp has to be removed).

Treatment: While endometrial polyps are not harmful and may not necessarily require treatment or surgery from the onset, the criteria for treating polyps is dependent on the patient’s age and symptoms, such as bleeding. If she decides to get pregnant, the polyps have to be removed. Weight loss is also recommended because “fat cell tissues can be converted to cholesterol, which in turn can be a precursor to estrogen in our body,” says Dr. Cruz.

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For more tips of diseases and disorders that affect women, check out these FN articles:


(First published in Good Housekeeping Magazine, Good Health section as "Myoma, Cysts, Polyps, and Cervical Cancer" in April 2010; first photo by alubavin via Flickr Creative Commons; second photo by Mylla via Flickr Creative Commons; adapted for use in Female Network)

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