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Women's Health Archive


Polycystic ovarian syndrome and the skin

Updated April 29, 2021

Polycystic ovary syndrome is the most common cause of infertility in women. In many cases, women with PCOS have skin and hair issues such as acne, hair loss, or excessive hair growth in places where they normally do not have hair. Treatment options vary depending on the symptoms and each woman’s preferences.

Can some postmenopausal women with breast cancer skip chemotherapy?

Published April 15, 2021

Advances in breast cancer research have led to more personalized treatments, based on subtyping and more sophisticated testing. A risk assessment test can predict that some women do not need chemotherapy but will benefit from hormone therapy, and who might benefit more from both treatments.

Women, alcohol, and COVID-19

Updated April 6, 2021
Excessive alcohol use is a common response to coping with stress, but the physical, mental, and emotional impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have had a disproportionate effect on women. There are medical and psychiatric consequences of increased alcohol use that women need to be aware of.

Does cannabis use impede conception?

Updated April 1, 2021

Research we're watching

Women who use marijuana may have more difficulty getting pregnant than women who don't, according to a study published online Jan. 11, 2021, by the journal Human Reproduction.

The study looked at 1,200 women who were trying to conceive after experiencing either one or two miscarriages. The researchers followed the women for six monthly cycles and tracked those who became pregnant for the duration of their pregnancy. Those who reported using marijuana or hashish in the past 12 months or whose urine samples showed evidence of cannabis were 40% less likely to get pregnant during each monthly cycle than those who didn't use cannabis. Only 42% of the cannabis users became pregnant during the study period, compared with 66% of non-users. There did not, however, appear to be any difference in miscarriage rate between users and non-users. The study authors said that further research is needed to confirm the results.

Pain conditions are more common in women

Updated March 1, 2021

Getting a diagnosis and treatment for these conditions can be challenging.

When it comes to many common conditions that cause chronic pain, such as fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, arthritis, or lupus, it's difficult not to notice a trend. In most instances, a majority of the people diagnosed with these conditions are women, says Dr. Peter H. Schur, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a rheumatologist and co-director of the Lupus Center at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Not only are women disproportionately affected by conditions that cause chronic pain, but they sometimes have difficulty getting a definitive diagnosis as to what is causing their pain, and receiving appropriate treatments, says Dr. Schur.

Affairs of the heart

Updated March 1, 2021

Cardiovascular problems can conspire to put a damper on sexual enjoyment. Talking to your doctor and your partner can help.

A physical connection with your romantic partner is often an important part of a fulfilling relationship. But when it comes to matters of the heart, the health of your heart matters.

"A satisfying sex life depends on physical health, psychological well-being, and the quality of the relationship," says Dr. Jan Shifren, who directs the Massachusetts General Hospital Midlife Women's Health Center. Heart disease and related conditions can influence all three of those factors in both men and women. Here's a look at the range of those effects and some possible solutions.

5 myths about endometriosis

Published February 12, 2021

While as many as one in 10 American women is affected by endometriosis, it can take years to get a correct diagnosis because the symptoms may mimic other common conditions. And myths about this condition may keep some women from seeking help.

Can taking aspirin regularly help prevent breast cancer?

Updated February 1, 2021

Experts say there's little evidence that low-dose aspirin therapy brings benefits, and there are some risks.

In recent years, there's been a lot of talk about the potential benefits, and risks, of a regular regimen of low-dose aspirin. While much of the discussion has centered on whether taking low-dose aspirin can head off cardiovascular disease, some of the focus has also been on breast cancer. Can regular doses of this over-the-counter pain reliever reduce your risk of this common cancer?

For a while there were hints that the evidence was leaning that way. Back in 2017, this area of research, while still inconclusive, was somewhat promising. For example, a 2017 study published in Breast Cancer Research found that among some 57,000 women, those who reported taking low-dose aspirin (81 mg) at least three times a week had a 16% lower risk of breast cancer over all and a 20% lower risk of a specific type of hormonally driven breast cancer.

Women sit more after retirement

Updated February 1, 2021

Research we're watching

If you're looking forward to having some extra downtime after retirement, just make sure it doesn't bring more sitting-down time. A study published online Nov. 17, 2020, by the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that on average, women saw a sharp increase in sedentary time — more than an additional 20 minutes each day — after they retired compared with when they were working. This is an unhealthy pattern that can lead to a higher risk for cardiovascular disease.

Researchers identified this trend by looking at data on nearly 700 people (nearly 85% of them women) from a Finnish study. Most of the participants worked in administrative roles or held professional positions before retiring at an average age of 63. To provide objective measurements of activity, the participants wore activity monitors continuously for a full week during their one or two years both before and after retirement. The spike in sedentary time occurred after retirement, and remained at the reduced level for the next two years or more following retirement. Men, by contrast, saw a gradual decline in their activity level over time, but no sudden spike after they left their jobs. So, if you're retiring in the near future, it may be worth keeping an eye on your activity level to make sure you don't slow down after you leave your job.

More intensive treatment of DCIS reduces the risk of invasive breast cancer

Updated January 21, 2021
With increased rates of diagnosis of very early breast cancer known as ductal carcinoma in situ, there has been controversy about treatment. A recent study found that having DCIS was likely to lead to invasive breast cancer later, and also that women who chose more intensive treatment early were less likely to have invasive breast cancer.

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