Category Archives: Ask An Expert

What Is Infertility?

What Is Infertility? And Other Infertility FAQ’s Answered

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Infertility is a widespread condition; millions of people experience it every day. In fact, in the United States alone, 6 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 44 experience infertility. This number doubles if you consider women who can get pregnant but are unable to carry the child to term. Understanding what infertility is and how it is treated is essential for any person or couple struggling to get pregnant.

Infertile Couples Have Trouble Getting Pregnant

Infertility happens when a person or couple has difficulty getting pregnant after having regular, unprotected sex over an extended period, typically a year, without the use of birth control or other measures to prevent pregnancy. The time frame applies to women 15 to 35 years of age. Women 35 or older may naturally have a harder time conceiving and may be treated for infertility after a shorter time, usually around six months.

Infertility also refers to women who become pregnant but are unable to carry a healthy baby to term. An example of this would be a woman who experiences multiple miscarriages.

Infertility FAQs

Infertility FAQsBelow are some frequently asked questions that people have about infertility causes, symptoms and treatments.

What Causes Infertility?

Infertility may be caused by one or many underlying issues. No one solution will guarantee a pregnancy. It usually takes patience and thorough investigative work to find solutions to the problem.

To get pregnant, four major processes need to happen. When something disrupts one of these four processes, it can cause difficulty or prevent the conception of a child.

The steps are:

  1. A woman’s ovaries must produce eggs in her reproductive system for pregnancy. If the ovaries are not producing healthy eggs, it can lead to infertility.
  2. A woman’s eggs must be fertilized by sperm from a male for pregnancy to happen. If there are not enough sperm or sperm healthy enough to reach the eggs, infertility may happen.
  3. There is a passageway in a woman’s body that must provide a clear path for sperm to travel through to make its way to the eggs. Additionally, eggs must be able to travel to the uterus. If anything is blocking these pathways, it can cause infertility.
  4. After an egg is fertilized, it must attach itself to the wall of the uterus. If this does not properly happen, infertility may result.

What Role Does Ovulation Play in Infertility?

Regular periods usually reflect ovulation. Ovulation happens when a healthy egg is sent to the fallopian tubes from the uterus, which is necessary for pregnancy. However, sometimes ovulation doesn’t happen with menstruation, and this is referred to as a disruption of ovarian function. Ovarian functions that are disrupted are the most common causes of infertility.

A woman who does not ovulate during her menstrual cycle has a condition known as anovulation.

This may be caused by:

  • Diminished ovarian reserve. This is a condition that happens when a woman has fewer eggs in her body than she should for her age.
  • Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea. This condition happens when unhealthy weight loss or an obsession with exercise affects the ovulation processes. This condition may happen when a person is dealing with an eating disorder.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome. This is a condition that may be caused by too much testosterone in a woman’s body.
  • Issues with the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. These parts of the brain produce hormones that are associated with ovulation. When these hormones are not at the levels they should be or are out of balance, it can cause many problems in the ovulation process.

Is Infertility Caused Solely by a Woman’s Body?

Is Infertility Caused Solely by a Woman’s Body?A common myth is that women are solely responsible for infertility. The truth is, men are often part of, or the sole cause of, infertility. Many people are surprised to learn that in 35 percent of cases or more, men are part of the cause of infertility. In just under 10 percent of cases, it is solely caused by the male.

How Can a Man Contribute to Infertility?

There are many common reasons a man may contribute to infertility.

These reasons include:

  • Being overweight
  • Excessive or frequent alcohol use
  • Smoking
  • Testosterone resulting from medicine
  • Illegal testosterone use to build muscles
  • Genetic factors
  • Certain medications
  • Exposing testicles to frequent heat
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Diabetes

When Should a Couple Consult a Professional Health Care Provider?

A person or couple should consult a healthcare provider after a year of regular, unprotected intercourse without becoming pregnant. However, if a woman is over 35, it is harder to get pregnant, and therefore, she should seek help sooner. The time frame is generally six months after not becoming pregnant. Failure to become pregnant can cause depression, anxiety, and guilt.

Are There any Reasons Someone Should Consult a Doctor Earlier Than a Year?

If you are not over the age of 35 and are having trouble conceiving, there are circumstances where you may want to consult a professional before a year of being unable to conceive.

If you are a woman, you may consult a doctor earlier if you:

  • Have experienced multiple miscarriages
  • Experience severe pain during your period
  • Experience frequent pain during sexual intercourse
  • Have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the past
  • Suspect you have an STI
  • Have acne or excessive body hair
  • Have been diagnosed with pelvic inflammatory disease

If you are a male, you may consult a doctor earlier than a year, if you:

  • Have dealt with infertility with other sexual partners
  • Have a sperm analysis that is abnormal
  • Experienced testicular trauma in the past
  • Have had or are being treated by chemotherapy
  • Have been diagnosed with an STI in the past
  • Suspect you have contracted an STI

How Is Someone Tested for Infertility?

Many tests can be done to identify the causes of infertility. Tests utilizing x-rays, ultrasound, and a process called hysterosalpingography all help doctors spot things in the reproductive system that may be causing trouble. Investigating a woman’s ovulation cycle is another tool to identify causes. Males will likely have their sperm tested to determine their health and quality of it.

Is Infertility Permanent?

Infertility does not mean the condition is permanent or that there is no solution. Many people become pregnant and go on to carry and deliver healthy children after being diagnosed as infertile.

Can Living a Less-Stressful Life Cure Infertility?

It is a common myth that most infertility can be cured simply by living a less stressful life. The truth is that the intense emotions that accompany infertility might be the cause of stress and not the other way around. While there may be some truth that stress can affect sperm and the production of healthy eggs, the idea that infertility can be treated by stress reduction alone is an unhelpful one. It often intensifies feelings of guilt and self-blame that people dealing with infertility may already be feeling.

How Does a Healthcare Professional Treat Infertility?

Because there are many different causes of infertility, every situation is unique. Some infertility treatments include surgery, medication, or a mixture of both.

A treatment called intrauterine insemination (IUI), more commonly known as artificial insemination, is often used. IUI is considered primarily for cases where the male may be the cause and cases where the cause is hard to pinpoint.

I’ve Heard About Assisted Reproductive Technology. What Is It?

Assisted reproductive technology (ART) refers to many different treatments. The ART most commonly known to the public is in-vitro fertilization. However, ART refers to any treatment of infertility where a woman’s eggs are dealt with outside her body. ART usually involves removing a healthy egg from a woman’s body in a laboratory setting and combining that egg with healthy sperm. Once the egg has been successfully fertilized, it can be returned to the woman’s body. In some cases, a couple elects to have another woman carry the baby, whereas the fertilized egg would be inserted into that woman’s uterus.

Can I Treat Infertility on My Own?

If you and a partner have gone over a year while engaging in a healthy sex life and have not become pregnant, it is likely time to consult a professional. It is estimated that 85 percent of couples become pregnant within the first year of trying, so the numbers suggest that after this amount of time, it may be time to investigate the situation further as medical intervention is likely needed.

Is It Possible to Be Infertile After I’ve Had a Child?

Many people do not realize that they can still deal with and need infertility treatment even after having a healthy child. This can happen because the factors that cause infertility can show up later in life, or there may be underlying causes that weren’t present during the first pregnancy.

Arizona Gynecology Consultants Treat Infertility

Arizona Gynecology Consultants Treat InfertilityIf you are experiencing infertility and want treatment from experts with the latest medical knowledge and technologies, contact Arizona Gynecology Consultants today. Our programs investigate your specific fertility needs and provide individualized treatments for anyone dealing with infertility. We’re here to help answer any additional questions you have about your personal symptoms nod possible treatments. Reach out to discuss your options. We’re here for you.

Reasons You Feel Tired All the Time

Is It Normal to Feel Tired All of the Time?

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Feeling exhausted and drained of energy is unfortunately quite common for a multitude of people across the country. Because of this, many of them don’t acknowledge that being excessively tired is a problem.

Being overly fatigued can be caused by many different aspects of your health and lifestyle. Because of the large number of factors that can cause fatigue, it is important to acknowledge what could possibly be playing a role in making you feel so tired, as sometimes it can be related to health issues. Being exhausted does not have to be part of your daily life.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re feeling a little too tired.

What Is Fatigue?

Fatigue can be described as the feeling of being not only tired but completely drained of energy, too. Fatigue is consistent exhaustion that just does not seem to go away, even sometimes when you get enough sleep. This excessive tiredness can be caused by a variety of different elements in your life. And for women, there are even more reasons you may be feeling excessively fatigued that can be directly related to health issues such as hormone or thyroid problems. Because fatigue can be caused by so many different factors in your life, it is important to try and find the root of your problem to try and treat it as effectively as possible.

7 Possible Reasons You Might Feel Tired All of the TimeReasons You Might Feel Tired

1. Your Diet

Your diet plays an immense role in the amount of energy you feel you have throughout the day. Making sure you eat enough is crucial to ensure your body gets the boost it needs to get through the day. Eating breakfast also plays a big role, as that is the first meal of the day where you are breaking your fast from sleeping that night, to give your body more energy. You should also be making sure that you are getting enough healthy, whole foods that supply your body with nutrients. All foods should be eaten in moderation, but it is crucial to include some healthy, wholesome foods.

2. Nutrient Deficiencies

Speaking of your diet, there are also other issues that may be causing your fatigue. Many women especially find that they lack the certain vitamins and nutrients they need to maintain energy and hormone levels correctly. Because of this, it’s important to talk to your doctor and understand what nutritional areas you may be lacking in. Taking vitamins and supplements is a small change that may have a big impact on your energy and life overall.

3. Stress

Stress can impact your body and overall health in more ways than one. Consistent stress has the capability of not only negatively affecting your sleep, but your mental and physical health, too. Chronic stress is known to cause anything from muscle tension and headaches to intense fatigue. Learning to identify when your stress levels may be too high and understanding how to cope with them and hopefully lower them is a big step into the process of getting rid of fatigue.

4. Lack of Sleep or Sleeping Disorder

Of course, a lack of sleep plays a big part in feeling tired the next day. The problem is, when you continually do not get enough sleep, your body cannot function the way it should with regular sleep. This causes fatigue as your body literally slows down in order to keep working properly.

If you constantly find yourself unable to fall asleep or stay asleep, you might have a sleeping disorder. Talking to your doctor to see if you may be experiencing a sleep disorder such as insomnia can help you take the next steps towards curing your chronic fatigue.

5. Thyroid Issues

The thyroid helps regulate a lot of different functions of your body. When your thyroid is working incorrectly, for example, if it is underactive, factors such as your metabolism and sleep schedule can be heavily impacted. Many people with an underactive thyroid deal with chronic fatigue, weakened metabolisms, and even hair loss. Thyroid issues are often genetic, making it important to be sure you get yours looked at by a professional.

6. Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety both can affect your energy levels immensely. Depression almost always coincides with a lack of energy and motivation and is actually one of the most common causes of excessive fatigue across the country. Because depression can also affect your mood, many people find themselves with a complete lack of energy and little motivation to do anything, almost making them feel more slowed down and tired.

Anxiety can cause similar issues.  For some people, anxiety can cause a lack of sleep, with the inability to calm down. Many people with anxiety deal with racing thoughts, worry, nervousness, or the feeling of impending doom around the time they may need to go to sleep. Because of how heavily both anxiety and depression can affect your energy levels and life overall, it’s important to talk to a doctor to see what you can do to help.

7. Medications You’re Taking

The medications you take may actually have a larger impact on your sleep and energy levels than you might think. Making sure that you not only remember to take your medicine each day but ensuring that you are taking it at the right time can make a big difference. Many medications such as antidepressants are SSRIs, which are meant to be taken in the morning. If someone who is on an SSRI takes their medication at night, they will most likely experience a short burst of energy, racing thoughts, or the inability to fall or stay asleep due to the medication kicking in.

How Do I Boost My Energy?

Boost Your EnergyDo you find yourself wondering why you constantly feel tired or why your energy is so low? While there are a multitude of factors that can go into causing your fatigue, there are also a lot of natural ways that you can combat it. Make sure you stay away from substances like sugary, caffeinated energy drinks that will ultimately make you feel worse.

Here are a few ways to naturally boost your energy:

1 .Taking Supplements and Vitamins

Because so many people deal with vitamin deficiencies for so long without realizing, oftentimes when their body becomes regulated with the correct levels of vitamins and nutrients, energy levels start to boost themselves.

There are also some natural supplements, both by themselves or combined as suggested by healthcare providers, that can help give you energy. Supplements such as B12 and Ashwagandha can help naturally increase your body’s energy levels. Taking the vitamins your body needs while also supplementing with other natural ingredients may help get your energy levels where they need to be.

2. Eating Enough and Eating Whole Foods

As diet culture still reigns supreme through most media nowadays, it is important to remember how crucial it is to make sure you are eating enough. Your body uses food as energy, it’s as simple as that. When you don’t eat enough, your body does not have enough energy to serve you the way it should. When you eat enough, and on top of that, eat healthier, whole foods, your energy levels should naturally begin to shift.

3. Move More

It may seem counterintuitive at first, but it’s been found that people who are more active and move more regularly in their day-to-day lives also deal with less fatigue and get better sleep.  Sedimentary lifestyles often leave you feeling fatigued, yet sometimes full of energy at the same time, often leading to bad sleep patterns.

And as people age and lifestyles change, many find that they are just not moving enough anymore. Being active helps to not only use excess energy (if you have any), as well as help you be able to get a more full, deep rest at night. Being active also helps release natural chemicals in your brain such as serotonin and dopamine, giving you a natural energy boost.

4. Managing Stress

Stress is an energy drainer. Those who find themselves consistently dealing with high levels of stress in their life may also find that they are immensely fatigued as a result. Not only does stress drain your energy levels, but it also keeps you from getting the rest you need. Many people that deal with stress have racing thoughts and trouble stopping these thoughts. Because of this, they often have issues falling and staying asleep, as their brain can’t ever shut off for long enough to recoup.

5. Get Some Sleep/Take a Nap

While it might not be quite that simple for everyone, sometimes the best way you can give yourself a natural energy boost is by getting some quality sleep. Most people do not get the right amount of sleep they actually need each night, resulting in a constant state of fatigue that they can’t seem to find their way out of. Whether you start trying to go to sleep an hour earlier or you talk to your doctor about finding a medicine that might be able to help, making sure you get enough sleep needs to be made a priority in your life.

Should I Be Worried About Being Tired All of the Time?

While being tired isn’t necessarily the biggest issue you might have right now, if you are dealing with consistent, intense fatigue, you should talk to your doctor. Unfortunately, chronic fatigue can be related to a variety of different health issues. Consulting your doctor, describing your problems, and trying to find the source of the problem is the smartest thing you can do so that you both can work to accurately treat it and hopefully transform your energy levels.

Taking Care of Your Health

Female HealthcareHere at Arizona Gynecology Consultants, we prioritize your health. There are a variety of factors that go into your overall health and well-being, sometimes making it complicated to keep up with.  We work to ensure that you are provided with top quality, professional services by experienced providers so that you can achieve your best health.

If you’re feeling excessively tired or fatigued, contact us today to schedule a consultation so we can help you identify and address any underlying issues. You don’t have to suffer through it!

Your Annual Women’s Wellness Exam: What Can You Expect?

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What To Expect At A Woman’s Annual Wellness Exam

An annual gynecological exam is a vital part of maintaining the wellness of anyone with a female reproductive system. Whether you’re just hitting sexual maturity or beginning to experience the effects of menopause, it is important to monitor your body for signs and symptoms of illness. But there are certain health issues that require routine visits with a professional to catch, treat, and prevent them. That’s where your annual women’s wellness exam comes in.

When Should a Woman Have a Wellness Exam?

When should a woman have a wellness exam? The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggest a first reproductive health visit with a gynecological professional should be between ages 13 and 15. In this introductory visit, there will typically not be any kind of exam unless the patient is experiencing symptoms. It is treated more as an informational experience, teaching the young woman about her body and the basics of reproductive health/sexual safety.

Practitioners typically use this time to discuss:

  • Puberty and sexual development
  • Birth control and contraceptives
  • Prevention, screening, and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Breast self-examination
  • General health practices for adolescents

It isn’t until age 19 that annual breast and pelvic exams become necessary. Pap tests are not added into the routine until 21. That said, knowing the ages at which testing begins doesn’t necessarily lend a real understanding of what to expect at an annual women’s health exam. It’s not uncommon to experience anxiety around gynecological visits, as vaginal health can be a sensitive issue. Knowing what to expect can help lessen that anxiety and allow patients to feel a sense of control walking into the room.

What to Expect at an Annual Women’s Health Exam

Depending on your situation, you may be meeting with a gynecology physician or turn to your primary care physician, certified midwife, or other accredited professional for your reproductive health needs. All practitioners will likely conduct their visits in similar ways, beginning with collecting your vital signs—heart rate, blood pressure, height, and weight—as well as information on your medical history and that of close relatives. You will answer questions pertaining to your sexual and reproductive health.

Be prepared to answer questions such as:

  • When was your last period?
  • Are you sexually active/when was the last time you were sexually active?
  • Do you use birth control and/or contraceptives?
  • Are you currently, or have you ever been pregnant?
  • Have you had any gynecological surgeries?

You should also come prepared to discuss any problems you’ve had or are currently experiencing with your reproductive health or sexual function. Though you should ask your gynecologist all the questions that seem relevant to your visit, there are certain questions you may not even think to ask. There are a few specific symptoms of which you should remain conscious of and address with your provider.

They include (but are not limited to):

  • Menstrual abnormality – missed periods, heavy periods, unusual spotting
  • Pelvic discomfort – pain, bloating, bowel or urinary troubles
  • Sexual issues – painful intercourse, bleeding during or after sex
  • Unexpected changes – differences in the appearance of your vulva or feeling of your breasts
  • Signs of Menopause – irregular periods, hot flashes, mood, and sleep issues

Once the important data is collected, your provider will most likely begin physical exams and health screenings. Some of the tests you can expect include:

Pelvic Exam

The pelvic exam is done in three parts:

  1. A visual exam checking the health of the vulva
  2. An internal inspection of the vaginal walls and cervical area using a speculum
  3. A physical examination of the uterus and ovaries using a gloved hand

During this exam, it is not uncommon for women to experience some mild discomfort or pain. But, if for any reason you struggle with this portion of your visit due to anxiety or severe pain, be sure to communicate this with your practitioner. There are many options for alternate strategies to ease your discomfort or help you find calm during your exam experience. Patients with certain painful conditions such as vulvodynia may benefit from the use of a numbing lidocaine gel or a smaller speculum. If your concerns stem from psychological distress (i.e., sexual trauma, body dysmorphia, gender dysphoria), sharing this information with your gynecologist can help them understand your needs and how to help keep you comfortable during the exam.

One illness screened for during this exam is cervical cancer. Previously, women were told that they needed to have a cervical screening every year. Recently, the standards have changed. For women in their twenties, a cervical screening is needed every three years. Once they reach 30, however, the screening is only needed every five years. These cervical exams, known as “pap smears,” are conducted during the speculum-aided, internal portion of your pelvic exam. They are done by your practitioner gently scraping a sample of cells from your cervix to be analyzed by a laboratory for any sign of cervical cancer.

The largest cause of cervical cancer is an illness known as HPV, short for human papillomavirus. The pap smear done in the physical exam is not the only way to test for HPV. It is just one of the STDs screened for. If you are sexually active and have had a new partner since your last gynecological visit, your practitioner will most likely order a routine test for STIs.

STI Screening

  • Gonorrhea – urine test, genital swab test
  • Chlamydia – urine test, genital swab test
  • Syphilis – blood test for those without symptoms, swab test when symptoms are present
  • Genital Herpes – blood test for those without symptoms, swab test when symptoms are present
  • Trichomoniasis – visual exam, swab test, or discharge sample
  • HPV – visual exam for genital warts
  • HPV – pap smear during cervical exam
  • HIV – finger prick blood test

During this visit, your gynecologist will also perform a breast exam to check for any potential signs of breast cancer. Younger women will simply receive a manual exam where the practitioner feels for any lumps or differences in the texture of your skin and visually checks for nipple discharge. Around the age of 40 is time to discuss the need to introduce mammogram screenings into your wellness plan. A mammogram is a diagnostic test done by flattening the breast tissue to take an image from which your provider can detect signs of breast cancer or other abnormalities. Regular mammograms aren’t recommended until age 50, at which point they should be conducted every one to two years.

How to Prepare for Your Exam

A gynecological exam is not that much different than any other medical visit. Where it does differ is that certain biological functions will determine the timing of your exam. Remember, it is best to schedule your visit during a time when you know you are not going to be on your period. You will also want to avoid sexual contact or use of topical products for a day or two prior to your test, especially if you are going to be receiving a pap smear.

Otherwise, as with any other doctor’s visit, be sure to bring all the basics:

  • Driver’s License/Photo identification
  • Medical insurance card/plan information
  • A list of your allergies
  • The names and dosages of all the medications you are currently taking
  • Notes of any symptoms you are experiencing, questions you want to ask your doctor, or tests you wish to request that fall outside the scope of a regular wellness visit (some practitioners will not perform certain tests, like Herpes, unless you are showing symptoms or request it to be performed)

Schedule Your Annual Women’s Health Checkup Today

Need to schedule your annual women’s health checkup? Arizona Gynecology Consultants have multiple locations in the Phoenix and Mesa areas, offering a full spectrum of gynecological health services and procedures. While Arizona Gynecology Consultants is a go-to for primary care services for women in Arizona, their team of experienced clinicians and surgeons draw clients from across the nation. With specialists in all areas of women’s health, they aim to create a personalized experience for every patient in their care.

Cooling Cap for Chemo Helps Prevent Hair Loss in Cancer Patients

Cooling Cap for Chemo Helps Prevent Hair Loss in Cancer Patients

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When you first hear the diagnosis of cancer, the mind poses a myriad of questions. First, you want to know all the options available in the treatment for the disease. What’s next are the corresponding side effects of each option and how they will impact your life, in the short- and long-terms. For many, the side effects weigh heavy on which course of treatment will be utilized. A common fear with cancer treatment is the potential for hair loss. And for the patients who prefer to keep their diagnosis a private matter, nothing could be more revealing than to lose one’s natural locks. The FDA announced its approval of a cooling cap for chemo that can prevent “hair loss” in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. Let’s look at how hair loss happens.

Chemotherapy Induced Alopecia (CIA)

Many chemotherapies will target all cells in the body that divide rapidly. Along with tumor cells, human hair growth happens in the same way that cancer cells populate. This is why hair loss from cancer treatment, known as chemotherapy induced alopecia, can happen. To stop cancer, drugs need to be effective at apoptosis, or cell death. Unfortunately, cell death can also take root in the hair follicles. CIA is not a result from all chemotherapy regimens, as it depends on the type of drugs used, duration of treatment, and the manner in which the drug is administered to the patient.

Research has shown that CIA will begin within one to two weeks after chemo begins. Usually, within 90 days after the first days of cancer treatment, patients will have lost all their hair. The good news: It’s temporary.

Just as the body begins to restore and heal 30 days after chemotherapy has stopped, hair follicles seemingly return to life. Though it may take up to three months before new hair growth is visible, more than half of cancer patients who had chemo experience change to their hair. Some see a difference in color while others note the structure or texture has transformed into something new (coarse or fine, wavy or curly).

Why Putting the Freeze on Chemo Makes a Difference

Studies continue to take place to better understand why some patients experience CIA and others don’t. Scientists are looking into genetics as a precursor for CIA from chemotherapy.

For more than 40 years, the idea of cooling the scalp to help minimize the risks of alopecia has been considered and tested. Recent posts in the Journal of the American Medical Association “JAMA” show results in the use of such practices. And now, the FDA puts their seal of approval on it.

Cancer Patients Find Relief with Dignicap Cooling

In clinical trials, 66 percent of breast cancer patients treated with the Dignicap Cooling System during chemo infusions lost only half of their hair. Since chemotherapy generally affects “rapidly dividing cells” including hair follicles, both normal (hair follicles) and cancer cells are affected. However, the cooling mechanism in the head cap causes vessels in the scalp to constrict or “shrink”. This helps decrease the amount of chemotherapy going directly to hair follicles, thus preventing hair loss.

Compassion Matters during Cancer Treatment

At AZGyn, we take a more “natural” approach to healthcare. In the treatment of cancer, we provide our patients with a cooling cap (to decrease hair loss). In addition, we also provide “cold” mittens for hands and feet, reducing the chances of “neuropathies” (numbness and tingling in hands and feet) after receiving chemotherapy.


For a Safer, More Natural Approach to Cancer Care and Women’s Health
Call AZGyn (602) 358-8588

Could Your Endometrial Cancer Symptoms Turn Out to Be Something Else?

Could Your Endometrial Cancer Symptoms Turn Out to Be Something Else?

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Endometrial, or uterine, cancer is the most common reproductive cancer among American women. In fact, over their lifetimes, women stand a 2.5 percent risk of developing endometrial cancer. The cancer also makes up just over 6 percent of all cancers in women.

With this level of prevalence, it makes sense that women should be especially vigilant to detect endometrial cancer early. However, some other conditions effectively mimic endometrial cancer. These conditions can cause false panic, or lead women to be less likely to believe endometrial cancer caused their symptoms.

What Is Endometrial Cancer?

Endometrial Cancer SymptomsAlso known as uterine cancer, endometrial cancer affects the interior of the uterus, the primary reproductive organ in women. Located in the pelvis, the uterus houses and nourishes the developing fetus during pregnancy. Its lining, called the endometrium, exists in two layers – the basal layer and the functional layer. During the menstrual cycle, the functional layer thickens to prepare to accommodate a zygote. It is then shed during menstruation if fertilization does not occur.

Endometrial cancer involves too-rapid cell growth and an eventual tumor on the basal layer of the endometrium. Other types of uterine cancer, such as uterine sarcoma, can occur on the other parts of the uterus but endometrial cancer is much more common. As a result, it is important to watch for signs of endometrial cancer.

What Are Some Signs of Endometrial Cancer?

There are numerous signs and symptoms of endometrial cancer. Some of the most common include:

  • Watery, blood-tinged discharge. Watery, bloody discharge apart from your regular periods or after menopause is the most telling sign of endometrial cancer. It is a classic, or cardinal, symptom that women should never ignore.
  • Any abnormal vaginal discharge and bleeding. Nearly 90 percent of women with endometrial cancer experienced abnormal vaginal bleeding at some point before diagnosis. Abnormal vaginal discharge and bleeding can encompass a number of symptoms:
    • Bleeding between periods
    • Bleeding after menopause
    • Non-bloody, unusual discharge between periods or after menopause
  • It is important to report abnormal bleeding, spotting, or any other abnormal discharge to your doctor, particularly if you’ve already experienced menopause.
  • Pelvic pain. Though pelvic pain is common to many other pelvic conditions, when associated with some other symptoms, it can be a sign of endometrial cancer.
  • Feeling bloating, a mass, or heaviness in the pelvis. Unusual feelings of heaviness or a mass in the abdomen can be a sign of a uterine tumor. However, this symptom is not common until endometrial cancer is more advanced.
  • Painful sex and urination. Pain during sex – particularly deeper, cervical pain – can result from endometrial cancer. Similarly, pain during urination can indicate other pelvic issues.
  • Unexplained weight loss. Unexplained weight loss can be a symptom of numerous conditions found throughout the body. However, in combination with other signs and symptoms mentioned above, weight loss can be the final piece to the puzzle when it comes to an endometrial cancer diagnosis.

What Other Conditions Can Mimic Endometrial Cancer?

A host of other pelvic and reproductive conditions can produce some of the same symptoms as endometrial cancer.

  • Conditions that cause abnormal vaginal bleeding. Most of the conditions commonly confused with endometrial cancer are conditions that also produce abnormal vaginal bleeding:
    • Menorrhagia, or regular, unusually heavy periods
    • Anovulation, where the ovaries fail to release an egg
    • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
    • Endocrine syndromes that affect ovulation, like Cushing syndrome and hypo/hyperthyroidism
    • Uterine polyps
    • Endometriosis
    • Uterine fibroids
    • Malformed arteries and veins
    • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Conditions that cause other symptoms mimicking endometrial cancer. Other symptoms of endometrial cancer, such as pelvic pain, pelvic masses, and abdominal bloating, can be caused by:
    • Vaginal infections
    • Cervical infections
    • Cervical polyps
    • Vasculitis
    • Vaginal fistulas
    • Urethral diseases
    • Crohn’s disease

It is important to determine whether these conditions are present before continuing with treatments for endometrial cancer.

Are You at Risk for Endometrial Cancer?

As with any other form of cancer, the presence of certain factors for endometrial cancer can increase your risk. It is important to note that the presence of one or even many of these risk factors does not mean you will develop endometrial cancer. Rather, risk factors mean you may be more likely to develop cancer.

Consider whether you may have any of these endometrial cancer risk factors:

  • Years of menstruation. More years of menstruation, whether due to early menstruation or later menopause, increases your risk of endometrial cancer.
  • Older age. Apart from years of menstruation, older women are more likely to develop endometrial cancer, especially after menopause.
  • Zero pregnancies. If you’ve never been pregnant, you are at increased risk of developing endometrial cancer.
  • Obesity. Obese women are more likely to develop endometrial cancer, possibly because body fat can alter your hormones.
  • Hereditary colon cancer syndrome. Otherwise known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer syndrome, or HNCCS, this syndrome increases your risk for multiple cancers, including colorectal and endometrial cancers.
  • Certain hormonal drugs. Tamoxifen, a hormonal drug used to treat breast cancer, carries a small risk of causing endometrial cancer. However, the benefits outweigh the risks in many cases.

What Should You Do?

You can avoid some of the risk factors noted above by maintaining a healthy weight with diet and exercise, and thinking twice about using hormonal therapies. In addition, many doctors suggest using birth control pills for at least one year. This alteration in your routine can result in years’ worth of risk reduction for endometrial cancer.

If you notice symptoms of endometrial cancer, it is important to inform a doctor right away. Endometrial cancer is extremely treatable if caught early, and the most common signs and symptoms appear early in the cancer’s progress. Although other conditions may mimic some of these symptoms, it is best to seek an appointment with any of our knowledgeable practitioners at Arizona Gynecology Consultants. By determining what is causing your symptoms, we can pursue effective treatment.

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Does Alcohol Consumption Increase Breast Cancer Risk

Does Alcohol Consumption Increase Breast Cancer Risk?

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Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug on the planet, and women face a significant risk of developing breast cancer from overconsumption of alcohol. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer among women all over the world*, and a new study out of Australia confirms the link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer risk.

The Link Between Alcohol And Breast Cancer

Researchers from Flinders University in Australia recently reported that breast cancer accounts for more than 13% of all new cancer diagnoses in Australia and more than 28% of all new cancer diagnoses in women**. One of the most troubling findings from the studies done to reach this conclusion is the fact that many women do not understand the severity of the risk posed by alcohol consumption and how alcohol can increase the risk of developing breast cancer and other serious health conditions. Among women ages 45 to 64, alcohol consumption rates appear to be rising in tandem with alcohol consumption rates.

Understanding The Risks

1 in 8 Women will be diagnosed breast cancer in their lifetimeResearch consistently reports strong links between alcohol consumption and cancer risk, and women who consume three alcoholic drinks per week face a 15% increase in breast cancer risk. Cancer researchers also report that for every drink beyond three per week increases this risk by an additional 10%***. Young girls between the ages of 9 and 15 also face a significantly higher risk of developing benign breast lumps if they consume three to five alcoholic drinks per week. Drinking alcohol can also increase the risk of breast cancer returning in women who received early-stage breast cancer diagnoses.

Drinking alcohol increase estrogen levels in the body. This inherently means that alcohol increases the risk of estrogen-sensitive cancers, like breast cancer. Although some medical research indicates that one alcoholic drink per day can actually help prevent some medical problems like heart disease, this comes with a tradeoff of increasing the risk of developing other health problems. Remember, this applies to all forms of alcohol. It does not matter if you prefer beer, wine, or hard liquor; any type of alcohol consumption will invariably increase your risk of developing certain types of cancer.

Alcohol consumption also causes other medical issues that can make it harder for your body to fight cancer. For example, alcohol is hard on the liver, and people who consume alcohol face a greater risk of developing liver diseases. Alcohol can also interrupt brain function, immune system effectiveness, and digestive functions. Ultimately, drinking causes countless health problems, and any suggested health benefits of daily drinking fall very short of offsetting the potential damage it can cause.

Reducing Your Breast Cancer Risk

Some women are naturally predisposed to developing breast cancer, but any woman can reduce her risk by limiting alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a deeply ingrained part of social life in the United States, Europe, Australia, and elsewhere in the world, but that does not mean you must make it a part of your social life.

Taking a few proactive steps to reduce your alcohol consumption can dramatically lower your risk of developing breast cancer or prevent breast cancer from returning after an early-stage diagnosis and treatment.

  • Proactively limit your alcohol intake. You do not have to give up drinking entirely, but limiting yourself to one or two drinks per week would minimize the increased risk of breast cancer alcohol consumption presents.
  • Abstain from alcohol entirely. While some claim that a glass of red wine each day can improve blood pressure and bolster heart function, there really is no medical benefit to consuming alcohol. Abstaining entirely is the best way to limit your risk of breast cancer, but social pressures can make this difficult for many women.
  • If you know that certain situations encourage you to drink, try to mix up your routine and find new ways to enjoy your leisure time without drinking. Consider reaching out to make new friends or explore a new hobby you have always wanted to try.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Alcohol can wreak havoc on the body, and this happens more acutely in those with poor dietary habits.
  • Seek substance abuse treatment if you think you have developed a drinking problem. Accepting the fact that you need help can be an incredible challenge, but the sooner you address a drinking problem and receive treatment, the sooner you can start making healthier life choices and minimizing your risk of breast cancer and other medical complications.
  • Exercise daily. Even a few minutes of moderate exercise each day can improve your overall health and help prevent different types of cancer.

These are just a few steps you can take to limit the risk of alcohol consumption leading to major medical problems like breast cancer.

Finding Alcohol Abuse Treatment

Due to alcohol’s place in society, many people may find it very difficult to admit to a drinking problem. High-functioning alcoholism is incredibly common today, and this type of alcoholism describes a person who seemingly has his or her life in order while maintaining an alcohol abuse disorder. Eventually, this type of lifestyle will not last, and the individual will need to make significant changes before alcoholism consumes his or her life entirely. Admitting the need for treatment is the first step toward recovery, and the rehab experience can be incredibly beneficial in more ways than just helping you quit drinking. The skills and coping techniques learned in rehab can apply to other areas of life, helping a person cultivate new friendships and healthier habits that contribute to a healthier, safer lifestyle.

The added benefit of seeking alcohol addiction treatment is that quitting drinking will lower your risk of developing breast cancer. Speak with your doctor if you have any concerns about how your alcohol consumption habits could be negatively impacting your health, and do not be afraid of reaching out to ask for help on the road to recovery.

The Importance in Raising Awareness of Endometriosis

The Importance in Raising Awareness of Endometriosis

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March is Endometriosis Awareness Month, and everyone should understand the value of raising awareness of this medical condition. Although a large number of women develop this condition and it often entails severe adverse symptoms, endometriosis does not seem to receive as much public attention as other medical conditions. This March, take some time to understand this condition and do your part to raise awareness any way you can.

What Is Endometriosis?

EndometriosisEndometriosis is a complex condition that often results in serious and painful symptoms. Endometrium typically grows on the interior of the uterine walls and thickens, breaks down, and then bleeds with each menstrual cycle. When endometrium forms on the outside of the uterine walls, it can affect the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and other pelvic organs in rare cases.

During each menstrual cycle, displaced endometrium tissue acts just like normal endometrium tissue. It breaks down and bleeds, but may not have anywhere to go. Thus, endometrium tissue on the ovaries can cause endometriomas or cysts to form, eventually leading to scar tissue. The surrounding tissues may become irritated and grow fibrous adhesive tissues that bond nearby pelvic organs together. This condition commonly causes severely painful menstrual periods and other symptoms. If left unchecked, it may cause fertility problems.

Risk Factors and Symptoms

There are several indicators that may increase a woman’s risk of developing endometriosis:

  • Never having children
  • An early menarche or first period
  • Late menopause
  • Menstrual cycles less than 27days
  • Exposure to or natural development of excess levels of estrogen
  • Low body mass index
  • Uterine structuralabnormalities
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Family history of endometriosis

Symptoms usually appear within a few years of a woman’s menarche, can pause during pregnancy and then disappear with menopause. The most commonly reported symptom of endometriosis is unduly painful periods, usually starting a few days prior to menstruation and lasting for several days. Women with endometriosis may also experience excessive bleeding, painful urination, bloating, or pain during intercourse.

Treatments

The first line of treatment for endometriosis typically includes medication. Certain types of hormonal birth control medications can help regulate the growth and processing of endometrium tissue and ease symptoms. Hormonal intrauterine devices can prevent pregnancy for up to seven years, but they rarely treat endometriosis symptoms for this long.

If hormonal treatment does not appear effective, surgery is the next line of treatment for severe endometriosis. A surgeon will attempt to remove endometrium tissue deposits and then continue with hormonal treatment following surgery. Over-the-counter pain medicines, holistic treatments, and lifestyle changes can also improve symptoms.

Common Problems Facing Women with Endometriosis

One of the most challenging aspects of endometriosis treatment is the difficulty in obtaining an accurate diagnosis. Pain is subjective, and everyone experiences pain differently. A woman may complain of excessive menstrual pain during her periods, but her gynecologist may simply interpret this as the typical cramping and discomfort associated with menstrual periods.

According to an article published in Endometriosis News, some women have gone through 10 or more doctor visits before finally receiving referrals to specialists. Even more unfortunate is the typical wait time for an accurate endometriosis diagnosis — eight years or longer.

About 10 percent of women of childbearing age develop endometriosis, and while some manage their symptoms relatively effectively, this condition can cause a host of serious medical issues if left unchecked for too long. The most common of these related conditions is infertility. Endometrium tissue may prevent sperm from reaching eggs or even damage reproductive cells. Endometriosis can potentially interfere with any part of the fertilization and implantation process.

Failure to Address Symptoms

One of the most important reasons for raising awareness of endometriosis is to encourage gynecologists and other physicians to take patient complaints of related symptoms more seriously. From there, conduct more comprehensive screening procedures to catch endometriosis as early as possible and eliminate pain sooner than later. While this is by no means a rare or obscure condition, the symptoms are variable and often subjective, making it easy for a gynecologist to overlook or mistake for another condition.

Misdiagnosis and Delayed Diagnosis

Gynecologists’ not taking patients seriously is just one obstacle facing women in need of accurate endometriosis diagnoses; it is also very difficult to detect with imaging procedures. In many cases, a physician must perform a laparoscopic surgical inspection to confirm an endometriosis diagnosis, and the thought of undergoing this procedure deters some women from reporting their endometriosis symptoms.

Since endometriosis can be very difficult to accurately diagnose and shares symptoms with other common uterine medical issues, some women must contend with misdiagnoses for ovarian cysts or pelvic inflammatory disease. Irritable bowel syndrome can also accompany endometriosis, potentially misleading an attending physician to a misdiagnosis for a gastrointestinal issue rather than endometriosis.

How to Raise Endometriosis Awareness

There are many ways you can contribute to the public discussion on endometriosis and expand awareness of this condition. Women who have suffered from the symptoms of endometriosis should consider sharing their stories with others to potentially encourage other women in similar circumstances to seek treatment as soon as possible.

Local events are also great opportunities to increase awareness. Consider taking part in endometriosis advocacy events, such as the Worldwide March for Endometriosis or EndoMarch, at the end of March or any of the events for Endometriosis Awareness Week during the first week of March. Check your local community events guide to see if there is anything planned.

Social media is another great way to share advocacy materials, personal stories, and helpful resources for women struggling with endometriosis. Viral trends and hashtag campaigns can get a lot of people interested in an important topic in a relatively short amount of time. There are also countless petitions you could sign aimed at reducing diagnostic times for endometriosis patients and increasing the availability of care.

Endometriosis Awareness Month is a great opportunity to engage in meaningful advocacy for a condition affecting millions of women all over the world. Considering the significant diagnostic challenges facing women with endometriosis, increasing awareness could potentially help women seek treatment before their symptoms cause serious long-term medical complications.

Six Signs You Need To Find A New Gynecologist

Six Signs You Need To Find A New Gynecologist

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Gynecology is a very personal aspect of human health, and women often find it challenging to find gynecologists who make them feel comfortable and confident in the care they receive. If you do not feel at ease with your gynecologist, it is generally best to trust your instincts and do further research to ensure your doctor is providing the level of care you expect. While you always have the option of a second opinion, some issues are clear indications you should see a new gynecologist. All women should know the following six red flags that should warn anyone away from a gynecologist for good.

Warning Signs Of A Bad Gynecologist

Your gynecologist’s job is to perform required screenings based on age and individual health factors, inspect for visual signs of gynecological issues, and address patient symptoms and concerns with detailed and accurate advice. If your gynecologist indicates any signs of the following six red flags, start looking for a new one as soon as possible.


 

Failure To Stay Up To Date With WHO And CDC Guidance On Birth Control

Your gynecologist should be up-to-date on the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). These organizations consistently collate medical data and conduct research into new treatments and diagnostic methods and form the primary consensus for the standard of care in most medical situations.

For example, if your doctor prescribed any form of estrogen containing birth control but did not ask if you had any migraine symptoms, this would be a clear sign he or she has not kept up with the latest WHO and CDC guidelines. Migraines with aura, or migraines that cause visual or auditory interruptions and tingling in the face and head, are a serious contraindication for these medications. Estrogen with birth control may increase the risk of stroke in women who experience migraines with aura.


 

Inaccurate Assessments Of Symptoms

Physicians use a differential diagnostic process to diagnose a patient’s symptoms. First, the doctor checks the patient’s vital signs and compares them to his or her reported symptoms. For example, a patient complaining of headaches may also have high blood pressure, indicating one diagnosis while normal blood pressure would preclude that diagnosis.

If a gynecologist diagnoses pelvic pain as a symptom of pelvic organ prolapse, this is a clear sign of an inappropriate or inaccurate diagnostic process. Pelvic pain is not a symptom of pelvic organ prolapse; this condition causes a noticeable bulge and a sensation that something is exiting the vagina, but no pain. The doctor may not fully understand pelvic organ prolapse as a condition or know how to properly diagnose pelvic pains; a patient should consider either case a serious red flag.


 

Inappropriate Recommendations For Surgery

A hasty recommendation for surgery can give any patient cause for alarm; except in cases of severe medical emergency, a doctor will generally want to observe the patient for some period of time and conduct further diagnostics before recommending surgery. If, for example, a gynecologist were to book incontinence surgery without asking the patient for a bladder diary, this could lead to the patient undergoing a needless surgery. The diary is an important diagnostic step because it can help a physician determine whether surgery will help the patient with her incontinence; skipping this step or any other vital step of the diagnostic process before booking surgery is both negligent and dangerous.


 

Failure To Address Pain During Intercourse As A Symptom

Dyspareunia, or pain during intercourse, is a serious symptom that requires investigation. Sex should not hurt, and any type of pain during intercourse could be a sign of a very serious gynecological issue. If your gynecologist dismisses your concerns about sex during intercourse or makes no attempt to investigate the possible cause, start looking for a new doctor as soon as possible.

Misdiagnosis can lead to a patient’s actual medical condition worsening. If a woman experiences painful intercourse and her gynecologist fails to address this symptom, whatever is causing it could potentially escalate to a life-threatening degree. The doctor may prescribe a treatment that could cause other adverse symptoms if he or she does not take time to accurately diagnose the cause. In either case, mishandling of patient symptoms is a major red flag for any type of healthcare.


 

Failure To Recognize Potentially Dangerous Prescription Interactions

A good doctor must account for all aspects of a patient’s medical condition, including preexisting conditions and prescriptions intended to treat those conditions. Without proper review of the patient’s medical records, the gynecologist may mistakenly prescribe a medication that has fatally dangerous interactions with another prescription. For example, if the doctor prescribes fluconazole for a yeast infection to a patient who already takes a statin drug for high blood pressure, the patient may die. This interaction can cause rhabdomyolysis and the doctor should advise the patient to stop taking the statin drug during the course of fluconazole treatment.

If your gynecologist mentions any treatment or advice that conflicts with your medical history, bring the discrepancy up as soon as possible. If the doctor was unaware of your prior history, take this as an indication he or she has not thoroughly reviewed your medical records.


 

Improper Diagnostic Methods

Women report many symptoms to their gynecologists and every symptom requires attention. Those symptoms also require appropriate diagnosis. If your gynecologist claims your pelvic pain is due to uterine fibroids, this is a clear sign of improper diagnosis. Uterine fibroids are benign tumors of the uterine muscles that can cause acute pain once they start to lose their blood supply and degenerate, but this is detectable with imaging procedures. Fibroids commonly cause irregular and/or heavy bleeding, but rarely pain.

These are just a few ways to determine if your gynecologist is truly right for you. Ultimately, trust your instincts if anything feels wrong about a gynecologist’s treatment or if you find yourself experiencing consistent gynecological issues.