Women's Health

Women have many unique health concerns — menstrual cycles, pregnancy, birth control, menopause — and that's just the beginning. A number of health issues affect only women and others are more common in women. What's more, men and women may have the same condition, but different symptoms. Many diseases affect women differently and may even require distinct treatment.

We tend to think of breast cancer and osteoporosis as women's health diseases, but they also occur in men. Heart disease in a serious concern to both men and women, but risk factors and approaches to prevention are different. Women may also have specific concerns about aging, caregiving, emotional health issues, and skin care.

Women's Health Articles

Breast Ultrasound

Ultrasound uses sound waves instead of radiation to generate snapshots or moving pictures of structures inside the body. This imaging technique works in a manner similar to radar and sonar. Ultrasound was developed in World War II to detect airplanes, missiles, and submarines that were otherwise invisible. The doctor or ultrasound technician first coats a small area of your skin with a lubricant to reduce friction. He or she then places an ultrasound transducer, which looks like a microphone, on your skin and may rub it back and forth to get the right view. The transducer sends sound waves into your body and picks up the echoes of the sound waves as they bounce off internal organs and tissue. A computer transforms these echoes into an image that is displayed on a monitor. A breast ultrasound can indicate whether a breast lump is caused by a fluid-filled cyst or a solid mass, such as cancer. (Locked) More »

Excisional Biopsy of the Breast

In an excisional biopsy of the breast, the surgeon makes an incision in the skin and removes all or part of the abnormal tissue for examination under a microscope. Unlike needle biopsies, a surgical biopsy leaves a visible scar on the breast and sometimes causes a noticeable change in the breast's shape. It's a good idea to discuss the placement and length of the incision with your surgeon beforehand. Also ask your surgeon about scarring and the possibility of changes to your breast shape and size after healing, as well as the choice between local anesthesia and general anesthesia. You'll undergo a breast exam and possibly a mammogram before the biopsy to determine where the lump is located. If you are having a sedative with local anesthesia, or if you are having general anesthesia, you'll be asked not to eat anything after midnight on the day before the surgery. Tell your doctor if you're taking insulin, NSAIDs, or any medicine that can affect blood clotting. You might have to stop or adjust the dose of these medicines before your test. (Locked) More »

Hysteroscopy

Hysteroscopy is a procedure that allows a gynecologist to look inside your uterus. The hysteroscope is a long tube, about the size of a straw, which has a built-in viewing device. Hysteroscopy is useful for diagnosing and treating some problems that cause infertility, miscarriages, and abnormal menstrual bleeding. Sometimes other procedures, such as laparoscopy, are done at the same time as hysteroscopy. The time that you schedule this test can be important. Your gynecologist is able to get the best view of the uterine lining during the week that follows your period. If you have regular cycles, it is helpful for you to anticipate the timing of your next period and plan to have the hysteroscopy done in the following week. Tell your doctor ahead of time if you have ever had an allergic reaction to lidocaine or the numbing medicine used at the dentist's office. Discuss different options for anesthesia with your doctor in advance. (Locked) More »

Large Core Needle Biopsy of the Breast

A biopsy is a tissue sample removed from the body and examined under a microscope. In a breast biopsy, a doctor removes tissue from a suspicious area so that a pathologist can determine whether the tissue contains cancerous cells. At one time, surgeons only performed biopsies by making an incision in the breast and removing the suspicious tissue along with some normal tissue from around it. These surgical biopsies leave scars and may change the size and shape of the breast. Today, doctors can often use newer techniques. These include fine needle aspiration and core needle biopsy, which don't leave scars or change the shape of the breast. This is a significant advantage, because four out of five women who have biopsies do not have cancer. (Locked) More »

Pap Test (Papanicolaou Smear)

The Pap test (Papanicolaou smear) is an examination that is used to detect cervical cancer and precancerous conditions of the cervix. If a Pap test detects a precancerous condition (a change on the surface of the cervix that can lead to cancer), your doctor can treat or remove the abnormal tissue to prevent cervical cancer. If a Pap test detects a cervical cancer in its early stages, it may be possible to treat and cure your cancer before it has a chance to spread. In almost all cases, precancerous changes or cancer on the surface of the cervix are caused by a virus infection called human papilloma virus (HPV). Some types of HPV cause genital warts, and some types of HPV can cause cancer. Most people who are infected with HPV do not have symptoms, but they can spread the virus to others. HPV is spread through sexual contact with an infected person. Women can be tested for HPV. The doctor uses a cotton swab or small brush to collect cells from the surface of the cervix. The sample is sent to the laboratory to be tested for the presence of HPV DNA. (Locked) More »

Pelvic Ultrasound and Transvaginal Ultrasound

Ultrasound uses sound waves instead of radiation to generate snapshots or moving pictures of structures inside the body. A radiologist or ultrasound technician applies lubricant to your skin to reduce friction. He or she then places an ultrasound transducer, which looks like a microphone, on your skin and moves it back and forth to get the right view. The transducer sends sound waves into your body and picks up the echoes of the sound waves as they bounce off internal organs and tissue. A computer transforms these echoes into an image that is displayed on a screen. Pelvic organ ultrasound is used to monitor pregnancy, find cysts on your ovaries, examine the lining of your uterus, look for causes of infertility, and find cancers or benign tumors in the pelvic region. Depending on the view needed, the ultrasound sensor is placed either on your abdomen (pelvic ultrasound) or in your vagina (transvaginal ultrasound). Your doctor might ask you to drink a few glasses of water before the test because a full bladder lifts your intestines out of the way and provides a clearer view of your pelvic organs. If you're having a transvaginal ultrasound and have a tampon in place, you'll need to remove it before the test. (Locked) More »

Testing for Vaginitis (Yeast Infections, Trichomonas, and Gardnerella)

Vaginitis is inflammation or an infection of the vagina; symptoms usually include itchiness or irritation, abnormal discharge, and an unpleasant odor. Diagnosing the cause of vaginitis involves a simple examination of the vaginal fluid under a microscope or sending the sample to a laboratory for a culture. Because douches or vaginal creams can make it hard for the doctor to interpret test results, don't use these products before the test. No other preparation is necessary. You'll have a pelvic examination. The doctor uses a cotton swab to collect a sample of the fluid that moistens the lining of the vagina. This swab is rubbed against two glass slides, and a small drop of fluid is placed on each slide to mix with the vaginal fluid. If your doctor is testing for infection with gonorrhea or chlamydia, he or she might use a second cotton swab to take a sample of mucus from the middle of the cervix. (Locked) More »

Wire Localization Biopsy of the Breast

A wire localization biopsy is a type of surgical biopsy. Sometimes an abnormal area will be seen on the mammogram that clearly should be tested for cancer or completely removed from the breast, but this area is not easily felt as a lump on examination. The mammography department can help your surgeon to find the area more easily by using a technique called "wire localization." In this technique, the radiologists (who have had the benefit of seeing the abnormal area on your mammograms) mark the abnormality with a wire that is inserted under your skin into the area of breast that is causing concern. Right afterward, the surgeon can meet you in the operating room and can use the wire to find the abnormal spot in your breast so that he or she can remove it. (Locked) More »