August, 2010 browsing by month


Painful fibroids? An alternative to surgery

Friday, August 27th, 2010

Plenty of us suffer from fibroids (medical term is myoma), which are benign tumors that form in the uterus.  Up to 40 percent of all women will be diagnosed with fibroids at some point in their lives, but only a relative few have severe symptoms. If you’re among the unlucky ones, and you’ve had to cope with extreme cramps and heavy bleeding during your period, backaches, painful sexual intercourse, or urinary problems, you might believe that the only way to end the misery is by getting a hysterectomy.

But there is another treatment, one that has been proven effective for many women, and doesn’t require surgery. Uterine artery embolization (UAE) is a minimally invasive outpatient or inpatient procedure performed by an interventional radiologist.  Using a small x-ray camera (fluroscope), small, inert particles (embolic agents) are injected through a thin, flexible tube called a catheter into the arteries that nourish the fibroids and essentially block the blood flow, thus causing the fibroid to shrink.

A recent study in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology showed that for the vast majority of women, five years after the procedure was done, UAE had relieved symptoms enough so that a hysterectomy was not required.

Of course, any procedure has risks and there is always the possibility of side-effects from any treatment. But for women who suffer greatly from painful fibroids, who want to avoid a hysterectomy, UAE is an alternative worth considering.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH

Thank you, Susan B. Anthony

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

It’s difficult to imagine a time when women weren’t allowed to vote, especially now when the Supreme Court of the United States has, for the first time ever, three sitting women justices.

But it was just 90 years ago that the Susan B. Anthony Amendment was ratified, 14 years after her death, upon being passed by Tennessee on August 18, 1920, the last of the 36 states that were required to affirm it before it could become a part of the U.S. constitution.

The 19th was a simple amendment, the key part of which read:

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Women’s full equality has taken a bit longer to achieve. But we never would have gotten this far, this soon, if suffragist, civil rights activist, and labor reformer Susan B. Anthony hadn’t first convinced a congressman to propose the amendment, giving women the right to vote, back in 1878.

So, here’s to you, Susan B. Anthony, and here’s to all the women who have followed their dreams, and succeeded in ways that might not have been possible without you. We’ve come a long way.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD MPH

The new, several-mornings-after pill

Monday, August 16th, 2010

The FDA has just approved an emergency contraceptive that can prevent pregnancy if taken up to five days after intercourse.

The new drug, ulipristal acetate (ella), will be available by prescription only, unlike the so-called “morning-after pill,” levonorgestrel, which can be bought over-the-counter.

While ella is not the first emergency contraceptive to be approved, it gives women a wider window of opportunity to prevent pregnancy than previous emergency contraceptives such as levonorgestrel, which must be taken within 72 hours to be effective.

Although it’s been used in Europe for the past year, ella won’t be available here in the U.S. for another two to three months. And there are still risks and side-effects associated with it, as with all drugs. Still, the introduction of a new emergency alternative is good news for women and their doctors, in preventing unintended pregnancy.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD. MPH