Guest Column: Women don’t have to suffer from heavy, prolonged periods

One in five women in Illinois and across the country suffers from a treatable condition, yet most do not seek treatment. Heavy and prolonged periods, known as menorrhagia, affect 10 million women in the U.S. and cause symptoms from chronic fatigue and anemia that result from the extreme loss of blood, to embarrassing accidents and restricted activity that wreak havoc on women’s personal and professional lives.

Many women suffering from menorrhagia don’t recognize their symptoms may be a result of a known and treatable condition; others are too embarrassed to bring up the subject with their friends, family or even their physicians, and still others see their prolonged and excessive bleeding as an inconvenience rather than a health risk. What these women do know is that their symptoms place limitations on their normal, day-to-day activities. As a physician, I have seen many women suffering unnecessarily when minimally invasive and effective treatments are locally available.

In the past, women with menorrhagia were typically offered treatments ranging from drug therapy to hysterectomy, but for many women these treatments proved ineffective or unnecessarily invasive. Hormone therapy is usually effective only 50 percent of the time. Additionally, hormone therapy is not recommended for women with a history of cardiovascular disease, blood clots, diabetes or breast cancer. For women who do fit the criteria, they may experience undesirable side effects, including headaches, weight gain and nausea. Dilation and curettage (D&C) is effective for only 15 percent of women, and is often a temporary solution. The most invasive treatment, hysterectomy, remains a very common option. There are about 200,000 hysterectomies performed each year to alleviate excessive menstrual bleeding

Today, physicians have safe, effective and fast alternatives for women who have completed their families and no longer want to suffer from debilitating symptoms. Treatments, such as endometrial ablation, which use a variety of techniques to remove the lining of the uterus, are changing women’s lives by reducing, or altogether eliminating, their periods.

Anne, one of my local Rockford patients, suffered from excessive bleeding that truly impacted her quality of life for more than six years. She initially tried hormone therapy in the form of birth control pills to control her bleeding; however, her periods remained extremely heavy, lasting nine days a month. Often, her periods were so heavy, she would bleed through her clothes and experience clotting. Anne decided to take control of her periods, and she came to my office to discuss other options.

She knew she did not want a hysterectomy for fear of a long recovery time. In turn, I recommended she opt to have the most widely-used endometrial ablation technique, NovaSure. The procedure is FDA-approved and minimally invasive, allowing women to return to their normal activities quickly. Success rates are high, with 97 percent experiencing a significant reduction in bleeding and almost two-thirds becoming period-free after treatment (American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, November 2004). The 90-second procedure eliminates excessive bleeding by safely removing the endometrial lining of the uterus, requiring no incisions and minimal recovery time.

Anne had the procedure more than a year ago, and today feels 100 percent better. She has some spotting one day a month, but has regained the energy she lost from having her heavy periods. She wants to let other women in the community know there are local alternative options available if they are suffering from menorrhagia.

If you have extreme periods, if your symptoms affect your daily life and prevent you from doing the things you love, talk to your gynecologist––fast, easy treatment options are available, and can quite literally change your life. NovaSure is a 90-second, in-office procedure that can be performed under local or a general anesthesia protocol, and at any time during a woman’s cycle. Just like Anne, most of my NovaSure patients have returned to work a few days after the procedure, whereas a hysterectomy often requires recovery time of six to eight weeks. I estimate that 95 percent of the women I have treated with NovaSure had successful outcomes.

Dr. Bruce Jasper is Board certified in OB/GYN and practices at Rock Valley Women’s Health Center. For more information about menorrhagia or current treatment options, contact Dr. Bruce Jasper at (815) 637-6200.

from the May 2-8, 2007, issue

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