What is an OB/Gyn?
OB/Gyn is a medical healthcare practitioner who combines two medical
specialties, Obstetrics and Gynecology. It is common to combine these two
in order to provide comprehensive care for problems involving the
reproductive systems of women prior to pregnancy, the pregnancy cycle of
trimesters and after pregnancy. The two specialties are as follows:
Obstetrics is the medical specialty that
provides care for women during the three trimesters of pregnancy and
continuing for the first few weeks after childbirth. The Obstetrician
attends to the woman during labor and delivery and is trained to handle
all complications that would endanger and jeopardize the safety and health
of the mother and fetus. Obstetricians perform Cesarean Sections, where
the fetus is removed through an abdominal incision.
Obstetricians complete four years of medical school, followed by four more
years of primary care training and additional training in Obstetrics and
Gynecology. After completing an approved training course and a certain
period of practice, Obstetricians may take an examination for board
certification, a nationally recognized acknowledgment of expertise in that
Gynecology is the medical specialty that
handles female reproductive organ disorders.. The most common disorders
that are dealt with are menstruation, menopause, fertility, infections,
tumors and endocrine disorders. Many Gynecologists provide counseling on
birth control and prescribe appropriate methods. Most Gynecologists
perform the PAP TEST (Papanicolaou smear), and do breast examinations.
Gynecologists are physicians who have completed advanced training in
female reproductive disorders. Gynecologists perform standard checkups as
well as performing a variety of surgical procedures on the female
reproductive system. Many gynecologists serve as the primary care
physician for their patients.
Finding an OB/Gyn
Choosing an OB/Gyn
is an important decision. Thus, our goal is to assist you in making that
First of all, when
selecting an OB/Gyn, you may want to begin your search several different ways:
- Ask a family
physician. He or she is in constant contact with all kinds of health care
professionals and will be able to point you in the right direction.
- Ask family,
friends, neighbors and/or co-workers.
- Contact your
local Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau for reputable OB/Gyn's.
- Contact your
city, county or state medial agencies for names of qualified
Obstetrician/Gynecologists. Contact and ask for referrals from medical
associations. Many are listed in this publication.
You may want to
consult your health care insurance provider for a list of OB/Gyn’s that
are provided with your health coverage plan.
We recommend an
interview with the potential OB/Gyn. They are very busy but should provide
you a ten to fifteen minute time frame for an interview. We suggest asking
any questions that you feel important. It is very important that you feel
comfortable with the doctor so you can discuss your most personal issues.
Also, you may want to ask the following:
Is your staff friendly and accommodating?
What are the
procedures if we need a doctor in the middle of the night or on a weekend?
Do you have an
associate that covers for you when you are not available?
Do you have more
than one office, and if you do, how is your time divided between offices?
What kind of
continuing education do you utilize?
How do you stay
current on the latest drugs, prescriptions, and medical treatments
What type of
insurance coverages do you accept?
family medical history and particular problems you are concerned about.
After you have
consulted a few OB/Gyn's, you should have a good idea which one you felt
most comfortable with and whom best answered your questions.
How OB/Gyn's Were Selected
Research Council of America has compiled a list of top Obstetricians and
Gynecologists throughout the United States by utilizing a point value
system. This method uses a point value for criteria that we deemed
valuable in determining the top health care professionals.
that was used and assessed a point value is as follows:
Each year the Obstetrician/Gynecologist has been in practice
Education and Continuing Education
Membership in Obstetric/Gynecologic
Completing an approved residency program
and passing a
rigid examination on that specialty
Obstetrician/Gynecologists that have accumulated a certain amount of
points qualified for the list. This does not mean that OB/Gyn's that did
not accumulate enough points are not good doctors;
they merely did not qualify for this list because of the points needed
studies have been done with other professions using a survey system.
This type of study would ask fellow professionals who they would
recommend. We found this method to be more of a popularity contest. For
instance, professionals who work in a large office have much more of a
chance of being mentioned, as opposed to a professional who has a small
private practice. In addition, many professionals have a financial
arrangement for back-and-forth referrals. For these reasons, we
developed the point value system.
is a subjective call, there is no study that is 100% accurate. As with
any profession, there will be some degree of variance in opinion. If you
survey 100 patients from a particular physician on their satisfaction,
you will undoubtedly hear that some are very satisfied, some moderately
satisfied and some dissatisfied. This is really quite normal.
We feel that
a point value system takes out the personal and emotional factor and
deals with factual criteria. We have made certain assumptions. For
example, we feel that more years in practice is better than less years
in practice; more education is better than less education, being board
certified is better than not being certified, etc.
Obstetrician/Gynecologist list that we have compiled is current as of a
certain date and other OB/Gyn's may have qualified since that date.
Nonetheless, we feel that the list of Top
Obstetrician/Gynecologists is a good starting point for you to find a
qualified health care specialist.
donations, sponsorships or advertising are accepted from any
individuals, professionals, corporations or associations. This policy is
strictly adhered to, ensuring an unbiased selection.
The Gynecologic Exam
|The standard Gynecologic exam begins with the subject's medical history being
disclosed through an interview between the patient and the Gynecologist or
other healthcare professional to learn about her background. The exam is
designed as a preventive measure to screen for cervical cancer and breast
cancer, as well as other abnormalities such as cysts on the ovaries. The
best time for an examination is one week after the menstrual cycle, while
the worst time is one week prior.
The nurse will begin with taking the patient's blood pressure, weight and
pulse. She will ask when her last period was and ask if she is
experiencing any problems or has any particular concerns. It is common for
a urine sample to be taken to check for bladder infections, kidney disease
Gynecologist will listen to the patient's heart and lungs and check her
breasts for any lumps. Following the external exam the doctor performs a
Pap smear. A Pap smear, also called a Pap test, screens for cervical
cancer by detecting changes in cervical cells that the physician collects
by using a small spatula and smearing it onto a slide. This is one of the
most effective tests that can be performed to detect changes before they
progress into cancer.
then uses a medical examining instrument called a speculum. This
instrument is inserted into the vagina and will hold the vaginal
walls open, allowing the doctor to view the internal vaginal area
and cervix, and to collect a Pap smear sample. A long Q-Tip is inserted
and brushed against the cervix to obtain cervical cells for
examination by a pathologist.
are known as "the picture that can save your life". Breast
cancer is the second most common cancer in women and the leading cause of
cancer-related deaths in women aged 40 to 55. Breast cancer facts are
minutes, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer
minutes a woman dies from the disease
American Cancer Society predicts that more than 192,000 women will be
diagnosed with breast cancer this year
40,000 women will die this year from breast cancer
women diagnosed with breast cancer are over the age of 65
cancer can happen at ant any age
diagnosis is key to surviving this disease
No matter what
their ages, all women need to take care of their breasts. As a person gets
older the chances of getting breast cancer increase. Cancer can appear at
any time, so it is important to be checked each year. If any kind of lump is
detected or any other type of change in the breasts are noticed, it is
recommended that a doctor be seen right away.
Mammograms are a
relatively simple procedure. A patient stands in front of a machine while
the technician places a single breast between two plastic plates. The plates
press against the breast and make it flat. Better image quality is possible
when the breast is flat, although it may cause a few minutes of discomfort.
consists of two low-dose x-rays. One x-ray is taken from the top of the
breast and the other from the side. It only takes a few seconds for this
important test, and it is crucial to have one done by the age of 40 since
doctors need to establish a "baseline", or record of the breast’s
performed at many locations. Many hospitals, clinics, imaging x-ray centers,
and mobile van units offer Mammograms. A doctor can recommend a location if
one cannot be found.
/ 4D Ultrasound
stands for "Three-Dimensional". A 3D Ultrasound exam will
create a three dimensional image. 4D presumably stands for
"four-dimensional". 4D is similar to 3D, with the exception that
the fourth dimension, representing time, gives live-action images of the
unborn child. 3D and 4D Ultrasound use sound waves to create images. This
technology is safe for the mother as well as the unborn fetus.
3D/4D method works similarly to radar; Ultrasound uses sound waves to look
inside the body. When the device is placed upon the body it projects sound
waves and the returning echo generates an image. This is a safe and
non-invasive procedure that does not require any exam preparation. The
procedure lasts approximately 30 to 60 minutes; the time variance is due to
many factors including the position of the baby in the womb.
mothers have Ultrasounds performed at various times throughout their
pregnancy. At around 16 to 25 weeks the ability exists to see more of the
baby at once, and view the amazing development that has already taken place.
From 25 to 36 weeks, babies tend to build more fat, resulting in the ability
to see more facial features. Image quality varies, depending on the baby’s
position, size and movement.
birth control, vaginal intercourse results in an 85% chance of pregnancy
within the first year. For couples that determine both abstinence and
pregnancy to be unwanted, birth control has provided many methods for family
planning. Each method is designed to meet the unique finances,
reversibility, and safety of the couple involved.
Barrier methods, the most common form of birth control,
involve a physical barrier designed to block sperm from fertilizing an egg.
Condoms consist of a protective film made of latex, polyurethane, or natural
skin that covers the partner’s sexual organ during intercourse. Condoms have been
designed for both the male and the female and have a failure rate of between
3 – 5%. Spermicides are gelatinous substances that contain a sperm-killing
chemical, having a failure rate of 6%. Diaphragms are small rubber coverings
that protect any sperm from entering the cervix, with a failure rate of 6%.
Condoms, spermicides, and diaphragms can be combined for increased
contraceptives are taken by females to interfere with ovulation. Hormonal
implants, or Norplant, involve six flexible tubes implanted into an arm for
contraception with a failure rate of .05% for up to five years.
Contraceptive injections, or Depo-Provera, are injected into the muscles or
an arm every three months for a failure rate of .3%. Of all hormonal
contraceptives, birth control pills, with a failure rate of between .1% and
.5%, are most common. Each hormonal contraceptive is highly effective in
preventing pregnancy, although side effects include weight gain, menstrual
irregularities, headaches, depression, blood clotting disorders, hot
flashes, decreased sexual desire, breast pain, and acne.
sterilization is an irreversible form of birth control with an extremely low
failure rate. For males, a Vasectomy involves the removal of ducts that
carry sperm from the testes to the penis. For females, a tubal ligation
involves the barricading or removal of the fallopian tubes for prevention of
passage of eggs that descend from the ovaries.
methods of birth control involve self-discipline and control among couples
that are sexually active. Withdrawal is the removal of the penis from the
vagina just before ejaculation. While having a failure rate of 4%, this has
proven highly unreliable for distinguishing the total chance for pregnancy.
The Calendar and Sympto-Thermal methods involve abstaining from sex during
the eight most fertile days of the menstrual cycle. Each involves keeping
track of days and symptoms, with the rise of body temperature associated
with ovulation playing a role in the Sympto-Thermal method. These methods
result in a failure rate of between 2% and 9%. Abstinence is the avoidance
of any sexual activity, with a failure rate of 0%. All natural methods
except abstinence are highly unreliable.
begins when a male's sperm fertilizes a female's egg and it implants in
the lining of the female uterus. Pregnancy affects the female's hormonal
patterns and this results in one of the first signs of pregnancy, a
menstrual period. Other symptoms include breast swelling and tenderness,
fatigue, frequent urination, nausea, mood swings and weight gain.
pregnancy lasts approximately forty weeks, or 280 days, after the
beginning of the last menstrual period. Sometimes a woman goes into
labor before the expected date of birth, resulting in a premature birth.
Approximately seven percent of pregnancies result in premature births.
Births are considered premature when the baby is delivered prior to 37
weeks of pregnancy.
three stages of pregnancy, referred to as trimesters. Since there is
forty weeks of pregnancy they are divided into three equal parts.
The first 14 weeks of pregnancy are
referred to as the first trimester. The first signs of the pregnancy may
be nausea, tenderness and increased size in the breasts, and color
of the areola.
The sperm and egg join in the
The unborn baby is only one-sixth of an
inch long but is rapidly developing.
The backbone, spinal cord and nervous system are forming.
The menstrual cycle has stopped.
The amniotic fluid that cushions the fetus begins to form.
Nerve growth begins.
The embryo is the size of a raisin.
The placenta begins functioning.
The neural tube develops that will soon mature into a complex
On the 26th day the heart begins to beat.
Embryo is now 1/4 inch long.
Major organs start to develop.
Nausea, fatigue and frequent urination begin.
Hands and feet are shaped like little
Heart has divided into right and left chambers.
Heart is beating @150 beats/minute.
Major muscle system has begun to develop.
Baby now has its own blood type.
Unborn baby is now called a fetus.
Fetus is now 3/4 inch long.
Baby’s head appears much larger.
Baby’s veins are visible.
Ears begin to take shape.
Organs, muscles and nerves begin to
Hands begin to develop fingers.
Feet begin to develop toes.
The fetus weighs 1/3 ounce.
Wrists and ankles have formed.
Genitals have begun to form.
Baby's blood is oxygenated through the placenta.
Major organs are fully formed, including
liver, kidneys, intestines and lungs.
Baby's head is half the size of the whole fetus.
Fetus is 2" long and weighs ½ ounce.
The brain is fully formed and baby can feel
Eyelids cover the eyes but will not open until the seventh month.
Hair on head has developed.
Kidneys are developed and begin to secrete urine.
The second trimester is filled with tremendous
growth and development. You should start to feel better and have more
now has unique fingerprints.
lengthen and become organized by
kicking and other movement.
has taste buds.
weighs six ounces and is 5 ½ inches long.
system and urinary tract are working.
Lungs can inhale and exhale amniotic fluid.
weighs 6 ounces.
ultrasound the baby's sex can now be determined.
Sensory development advances.
has a white sticky coat
to protect skin and ease delivery.
now 7 ½ inches long.
Fetus weighs 3/4 of a pound.
Eyebrows and lids are fully developed.
Fetus weighs one pound.
practices breathing by breathing in Amniotic fluid.
weighs 1-1/4 pounds.
makes breathing movements.
weighs 2 pounds.
Fetus is 11" long.
During the final trimester you will
probably gain 9 to 13 pounds. You will probably feel more tired and need
to rest more frequently.
can open his eyes and suck his thumb.
weighs 3 pounds.
growth is now very rapid.
lungs and digestive tract are near maturity.
weighs 4 pounds.
Baby can turn its head.
Fetus weighs 4-1/4 pounds.
weighs 5 pounds.
now 19.5" long.
Baby weighs 5-1/2 pounds.
weighs 6 pounds.
is considered full term from this point on.
is best defined as the inability to conceive a child after one full year
of trying. Over five million Americans are affected by infertility.
There are many different causes of infertility and it can be due to male
problems as well as female.
in men is primarily caused by the number and quality of sperm cells.
There are various reasons for poor quality and low sperm count. Alcohol,
drugs, smoking, environmental toxins and certain medications can
temporarily reduce sperm. There are many factors involved in long-term
or permanent sperm production abnormalities. These include side-effects
from illnesses like Mumps, STDs, tumors, Diabetes and even surgery on
the prostate gland.
in women is primarily caused by ovulation disorders. Without ovulation,
eggs are not available for fertilization. Ovulation problems are
signaled by irregular, or lack of, menstrual periods. Ovulation problems
can be caused by stress, diet and even intense athletic training. Other
problems that can lead to female infertility include blockage of the
fallopian tubes, resulting in the inability of eggs to pass through into
the uterus. These blockages can result from an Ectopic pregnancy,
Endometriosis or Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.
many different type of tests to determine whether the fertility problem
is with the male or the female. The first step with the male is to check
the sperm quality and count. With the female the first test determines
if she is ovulating each month. This can be done by charting changes in
body temperature throughout the day. There are even FDA- approved home
ovulation test kits.
the results of the initial testing, your doctor may then proceed with
further testing to determine the cause of the infertility. The results
of the tests will help the doctor recommend the proper treatment. Eighty
to ninety percent of infertility cases can be treated with drugs or
|Menopause is an
important tuning point in a woman's life. The word "menopause"
is a medical term for the end of a women's menstrual periods. Menopause is
a combination of two Greek words meaning "month" and
"terminate". This occurrence is a natural part of aging in women
. Menopause begins when the ovaries stop making hormones, called estrogen.
When the estrogen levels drop it leads to the end of the monthly menstrual
periods. Menopause can occur anytime between the ages of 44 and 60, with
the average age being 51.
|Some symptoms of menopause are as follows:
Irregular menstrual periods
Sexual desires change
What are Hot
Hot flashes are very common among women who are going through menopause-
so common, in fact, that over 75% of menopausal women experience them. Hot
flashes are caused by quick changes in hormonal levels in the blood. The
feeling is described as sudden or mild surges of upper body heat. Some
women experience a heartbeat flutter and increase while other women get a
tingly feeling in their extremities. The skin becomes flush because of the
rapid increase in temperature and sweating can occur . These hot flashes
can last from 30 seconds to five minutes.
It is estimated that 20 to 25% of
menopausal women utilize hormonal replacement therapy. As with most type
of therapies there are benefits and risks. Listed below are some pros and
concentration and memory
good cholesterol levels
risk of breast cancer
risk of heart disease
replacement therapies utilize patches, pills, creams and implants as
methods of administering hormones. It is common for these types of
therapies to include estrogen and/or progesterone.
Other types of
non-hormonal therapies are available, and we recommend that before you
come to a decision regarding any of the above that you consult your
hysterectomy, the surgical removal of the uterus, effectively eliminates
a woman’s fertility. It has become the most common form of female
surgery in the United States, as approximately 33% of American women
over the age of 60 have undergone such a surgery.
To provide for limitless medical situations
involving potential pre-operative pain, it is performed utilizing the methods described
below. The most common method is a total abdominal hysterectomy. This
involves the complete removal of the uterus through an incision in the
abdomen. A vaginal hysterectomy, on the other hand, involves the removal
of the uterus through the vaginal opening, and becomes feasible if the
size of the uterus allows it.
At the same
time of surgery, the ovaries and cervix are sometimes removed for
medical reasons related to the individual. In addition to the cessation
of menstrual bleeding, removal of the ovaries results in decreased
production of sex hormones, vaginal dryness, pain or discomfort during
sexual intercourse, and hot flashes.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Transmitted Diseases, or STD’s, are infectious diseases that spread
through sexual contact. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control
states that there are over 15 million cases of sexually transmitted
diseases reported annually. Adolescents, ages fifteen to twenty four,
are at the highest risk for acquiring an STD. The epidemic nature of STD’s
makes this an ongoing problem, difficult to remedy.
sexually transmitted diseases are treatable. The first-line treatment
for STD’s is antibiotics. Penicillin has been effective against
Syphilis and Gonorrhea but many new Gonorrhea organisms are more
resistant to these older more traditional antibiotics.
Gonorrhea is cured by antibiotics. If this disease goes untreated the
infection can cause infertility in women and sometimes in men. Gonorrhea
spreads to the reproductive organs in a woman and can cause PID, pelvic
contract Gonorrhea it can cause a burning sensation when urinating and a
yellow discharge from the penis. Often women have no sign of infection
but some experience a yellow discharge, low abdominal pain and irregular
Chlamydia is a common infection, particularly among young sexually
active people. Most people do not show any symptoms, but if any do exist
they are similar to those of Gonorrhea. This STD is cured by antibiotics
but if it goes untreated it can cause infertility in women and even men.
Untreated, Chlamydia is the most common cause of infection, spreading to
the reproductive organs in women.
Syphilis may produce a painless sore on the mouth or genitals. The sore
usually disappears completely in two to three weeks. Approximately two
to four months after contracting this disease there may be symptoms that
include a generalized skin rash, patchy loss of hair or moist lumps
around the genitals and anus. These may disappear and reappear over the
next few years. If this STD goes untreated it can develop conditions in
the brain, heart and spinal cord. Syphilis can be cured with
Genital Herpes causes a painful outbreak of blisters on the external
genitals or on the cervix. During outbreaks the Herpes virus can be
transmitted to someone else. The outbreaks usually consist of clusters
of blisters which become ulcers. Theses blisters generally heal within
seven to fourteen days. Many people infected with the Herpes virus never
develop any symptoms and are unaware that they have this infection.
There is not a cure for Herpes but there are antiviral drugs that
suppress the number of outbreaks.
There are many strains of genital warts that affect specific parts of
the human body. Some people can carry the virus and never have any
obvious signs of warts. Genital warts may not appear for months and even
years after the infection has occurred. Warts are very common and can be
removed by freezing or applying a special lotion.
Hepatitis B is a virus that affects the liver. People who are infected
with Hepatitis B may have no symptoms. Other afflicted people can
experience fever, nausea, dark urine and jaundice. Once recovered, most
affected people develop antibodies to the virus and cannot spread the
virus to others. Some others retain the virus and become carriers that
could infect other people. A vaccine to prevent Hepatitis B is available
but is not effective for Hepatitis B carriers.
This virus is spread by blood to blood contact. Once infected, the
victim remains infected for life. This virus affects the human immune
system. People who have contracted this disease may not have any
symptoms for many years. Over time, the immune system becomes
ineffective and serious infections and cancers can develop. When this
happens it is known as AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). HIV
is diagnosed by a blood test.
|A UTI, or Urinary Tract Infection, begins in
the urinary system. UTIs can be painful, and they can also become a serious health problem if the infection spreads to
The urinary system is composed of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. All play a role in removing waste from
the body. The kidneys filter waste from the blood. Tubes called ureters carry urine from
the kidneys to the bladder, where it is stored until it exits the body through the urethra. All of these parts of the urinary system can become infected, but most infections involve the lower tract—the urethra and the bladder.
Normally, urine is sterile. It is usually free of bacteria, viruses, and fungi, but it does contain fluids, salts, and waste products. An infection occurs when microorganisms, usually bacteria from the digestive tract, cling to the opening of the urethra and begin to multiply. Most infections arise from one type of bacteria, Escherichia coli (E. coli).
In many cases, bacteria first travel to the urethra. When bacteria multiply, an infection can occur. An infection limited to the urethra is called urethritis. If bacteria move to the bladder and multiply, a bladder
infection called Cystitis results. If the infection is not treated promptly, bacteria may then travel further up the ureters to multiply and infect the kidneys. A kidney infection is called
UTIs are rarely serious when they occur in otherwise healthy adults. However, they have the potential to cause permanent kidney damage or life-threatening infection if they are not treated promptly, especially in people who have medical conditions that may complicate the infection.
Some people are more prone to getting a UTI than others. Any abnormality of the urinary tract that obstructs the flow of urine—a kidney stone, for example—sets the stage for an infection. An enlarged prostate gland also can slow the flow of urine, raising the risk of infection. People with diabetes have a higher risk of a UTI because of changes in the immune system. Any other disorder that suppresses the immune system raises the risk of a urinary infection. Women are more likely to have UTI than men. Many women suffer from frequent UTIs. Nearly 20 percent of women who have a UTI will have another, and 30 percent of those will have yet another.
You may have a UTI if you have any of the following symptoms:
|| Pain or burning when urinating
|| The urge to urinate frequently while passing only small quantities of urine
|| Tenderness or a feeling of heaviness in the lower abdomen
|| Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
|| Pain on one side of the back or under the rib cage
|| Fever and chills
|| Nausea and vomiting
Oral antibiotics can treat most UTIs successfully. The length of treatment may depend on the location of the infection, your sex and age, and whether you have complicating conditions such as pregnancy, diabetes, or prostate problems.
|Cervical cancer is the rapid, uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells on the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina. Fortunately, when detected at an early stage, cervical cancer is highly curable. Pap test screening, when done regularly, is the single most important tool for preventing cervical cancer because it can detect abnormal cervical cell changes before they become cancerous, when treatment is most effective.
Abnormal cervical cell changes are often the result of high-risk sexual behaviors years earlier. These behaviors include having unprotected sex, having multiple sex partners, or having a partner who has had multiple partners. These behaviors increase your risk of infections and sexually transmitted diseases. The most common cause of cervical cancer is infection with a high-risk type of the human papillomavirus (HPV). A past HPV infection in you or your partner can cause abnormal cervical cell changes later since the virus may remain in the body for life. Low-risk types of HPV cause genital warts, but other types may not cause any symptoms so you may not know you have had it.
Smoking or having an impaired immune system may also increase your risk for cervical cell changes. The use of birth control pills for more than 5 years may be a risk factor related to infection with HPV.
So, the best ways to prevent cervical cancer is to:
|| Delay first intercourse
|| Have fewer sexual partners
|| Don't smoke
Some of the risk factors for cancer can be avoided, but many cannot. For example, although you can choose to quit smoking, you cannot choose which genes you have inherited from your parents. Both smoking and inheriting specific genes could be considered risk factors for certain kinds of cancer, but only smoking can be avoided. Prevention means avoiding the risk factors and increasing the protective factors that can be controlled so that the chance of developing cancer decreases.
Although many risk factors can be avoided, it is important to keep in mind that avoiding risk factors does not guarantee that you will not get cancer. Also, most people with a particular risk factor for cancer do not actually get the disease. Some people are more sensitive than others are to factors that can cause cancer.
The ovaries are a pair of female reproductive organs which are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus. Each ovary is about the size and shape of an almond. The ovaries have two functions: they produce eggs and female hormones.
Each month, during the menstrual cycle, an egg is released from one ovary. The egg travels from the ovary through a fallopian tube to the uterus. The ovaries are the main source of female hormones. These hormones control the development of female body characteristics, such as the breasts, body shape, and body hair. They also regulate the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.
Cancer occurs when cells become abnormal and keep dividing and forming more cells without control. Like every other organ in the body, the ovaries are made up of many types of cells. Normally, cells divide to produce more cells only when the body needs them. This orderly process helps keep us healthy. If cells keep dividing when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms. This mass of extra tissue, called a growth, or tumor, can be benign or malignant.
Malignant tumors are cancerous. Cancer cells can invade and damage tissues and organs near the tumor. Cancer cells can also break away from a malignant tumor in the ovary and spread to other organs in the abdomen and form new tumors. Ovarian cancer spreads most often to the colon, the stomach, and the diaphragm. The cancer cells can also enter the lymphatic system or the bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body. The spread of cancer is called metastasis.
There are several types of ovarian
cancer; most ovarian cancers are epithelial carcinomas, which begin in the lining of the ovary. Other types of ovarian cancer are rare.
The cause of ovarian cancer is unknown. In 10 to 20 percent of women with ovarian cancer, a family history of the disease is found. Other risk factors for developing ovarian cancer include infertility and long-term ovulation that is not interrupted by pregnancy or suppressed with hormonal birth control methods. Older women are at highest
risk: More than half of the deaths from ovarian cancer occur in women between 55 and 74 years of age, and approximately one quarter of ovarian cancer deaths occur in women between 35 and 54 years of age.
Ovarian cancer does not cause many symptoms in its early stages—which is why
75 to 80 percent of cases are not diagnosed until the cancer has reached an advanced stage. The most common symptoms that cause women to seek evaluation include ongoing abdominal discomfort, cramping pain, intestinal gas, or a change in bowel or bladder habits.
Surgery is the preferred treatment and is frequently necessary for diagnosis. Surgery performed by a specialist in
Gynecologic Oncology results in a higher rate of cure. Chemotherapy is used as after surgery to treat any residual disease. Chemotherapy can also be used to treat women who have a recurrence. Radiation therapy is rarely used in ovarian cancer in the United States.
Ovarian cancer is rarely diagnosed in its early stages. It is usually quite advanced by the time diagnosis is made. The outcome is often poor. The five-year survival rate for all stages is only 35 percent to 38 percent. If, however, diagnosis is made early in the disease, five-year survival rates can reach 90 percent to 98 percent
An ovarian cyst is a round, thin-walled, clear fluid-filled sac that develops in the ovary as part of normal egg development. When on the ovary's surface, an ovarian cyst looks something like a skin blister. A normal ovarian cyst can grow as large as 1.5 inches as it prepares to release an egg into the abdomen.
When an ovarian cyst does not release its egg, it continues to grow, becoming larger than normal—known as a
Functional Ovarian Cyst. These may also form after an egg is released. In this case, the ovarian cyst reseals itself and swells with
fluid, which is called a Luteal Cyst. Functional ovarian cysts are the most common type of ovarian growth in women of childbearing age.
Like most types of ovarian cysts, functional cysts usually don't cause symptoms and are first noticed during a general pelvic exam. However, a larger ovarian cyst can twist, rupture, or bleed and be very painful. If your health professional has found that you have a functional ovarian cyst, you have no reason to worry about
it being cancerous—functional cysts do not lead to cancer. Most functional ovarian cysts are
harmless and disappear on their own within a few months.
Treatment depends on your age, the type and size of your cyst, and your symptoms. Your doctor may suggest:
Wait and See
You can wait and be re-examined in one to three months if
you are in your reproductive years, you have no symptoms and an ultrasound shows you have a simple, fluid-filled cyst. Your doctor will likely recommend that you get follow-up pelvic ultrasounds at periodic intervals to see if your cyst has changed in size. Watchful waiting, including regular monitoring with ultrasound, is also a common treatment option recommended for postmenopausal women if a cyst is filled with fluid and less than 2 inches in diameter.
Birth control pills
Your doctor may recommend birth control pills to reduce the chance of new cysts developing in future menstrual cycles. Oral contraceptives offer the added benefit of significantly reducing your risk of ovarian cancer—the risk decreases
over time as you take birth control pills.
Your doctor may suggest removal of a cyst if it is large, doesn't look like a functional cyst, is growing or persists through two or three menstrual cycles. Cysts that cause pain or other symptoms may be removed. Some cysts can be removed without removing the ovary in a procedure known as a
Cystectomy. Your doctor may also suggest removal of the one affected ovary and leaving the other intact in a procedure known as
Oophorectomy. Both procedures may allow you to maintain your fertility if you're still in your childbearing years.
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