Q: I’m reaching the age where I’m starting to worry about menopause. What should I be prepared for and how can I manage these changes?

A:

Each woman will experience the effects of menopause differently, as a result of hormone fluctuations within the body. Some will transition through this period of change with relative ease, while others may be in for a very difficult journey. Symptoms of menopausal change can include hot flashes, urinary incontinence, mood swings, trouble sleeping, loss of libido, and difficulty concentrating among other things.

Hot flashes are a common occurrence in menopausal women.  These episodes can be triggered by a variety of things including alcohol, caffeine, stress, and spicy food. If you do experience a hot flash, take note of what you are doing at the time. By avoiding your own personal triggers, you may help to reduce the frequency or intensity of future hot flashes. You can help relieve many of the menopausal symptoms, like difficulty concentrating, simply by exercising, eating healthy, practicing relaxation techniques, and getting plenty of sleep. For something like urinary incontinence, an embarrassing issue to many, help is available.  Speak with your doctor about treatment options including medicines, exercises, devices, or even surgery in serious cases.

Chanan Levy, MD
Obstretrics and Gynecology

Q: Is it true that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women?

A: Heart disease is indeed the biggest killer of women. In fact, women are more likely to die from heart disease than men. This could be due in part to the fact that women’s symptoms seem to be less dramatic, often being described as pain, uncomfortable pressure, or a squeezing feeling in the chest, and not necessarily the crushing, chest-clutching pain we’re often familiar with from TV and movies. Women also tend to experience symptoms like sweating, nausea, dizziness, and extreme fatigue, as well as other symptoms that most people wouldn’t necessarily associate with a heart condition. Most of the time, women chalk up their symptoms to less life-threatening conditions such as acid reflux, the flu, or normal aging. They often don’t take them seriously and don’t call 911.
In a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, women who prescribe to six healthy lifestyle habits are more than 90 percent less likely to develop cardiovascular disease. These habits include maintaining a healthy diet, consuming one or less alcoholic beverages a day, exercising at least 2 ½ hours a week, watching seven or fewer hours of TV per week, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy body mass index. Women of all ages need to take heart disease seriously. It’s important to start adapting healthy lifestyle habits as early as possible, as this may prevent the progression of the disease.

Mitika Maddula, MD
Cardiology

Q: What are the benefits of 3D mammography?

A: Newer, three-dimensional mammograms can aid in finding more invasive cancers earlier and reducing the incidence of false-positives. Studies have shown that, on average, 3D mammography contributed to a 42% increase in the detection of invasive cancer, a 15% decrease in “callback” rates due to suspicious results, and a 29% increase in the detection of all breast cancers. These findings are very promising, and in themselves may justify the increased costs associated with 3D mammography for many patients considering this option. However, the technology has not been around long enough to determine whether this translates into improved breast cancer survival.

Traditional mammography methods are more likely than 3D mammography to produce results that could be interpreted as suspicious, resulting in additional imaging or even a biopsy. Only about 7% of all callbacks actually result in the discovery of cancer, but the costs and anxiety associated with them can be very taxing on an individual. Additionally, 3D mammography has proven to be very effective in the detection of cancers for women who either have very dense breast tissue, or a personal or family history of breast cancer. Ask your doctor if 3D mammography can benefit you. The added cost for a 3D mammogram is $100 and is not currently covered by insurance. We are now offering walk-in screening mammograms Mondays from 7:30am-7:30pm and Fridays from 7:30am-3:30pm.

Meghan L. Milburn, MD
Breast Surgeon

Q: After a mastectomy, what are my options for taking control of my appearance?

A: New kinds of treatment as well as improved reconstructive surgery mean that women who have breast cancer today have better choices. Breast reconstruction surgery can help return a woman’s breast to near normal shape, size and appearance following a mastectomy, helping her regain her physique and confidence in her appearance. The Breast Center team at UM Upper Chesapeake Medical Center includes highly trained breast reconstruction surgeons who work with each person to customize a unique and individualized plan.

There are two major types of reconstruction methods, each with their own advantages. Implant reconstruction is the most commonly chosen method by patients and involves using saline or silicone gel filled implants which are placed in a pocket created in the chest wall. Implant reconstruction procedures have the advantage of being shorter operations, and generally a fairly rapid recovery can be expected. When appropriate, many reconstructive surgeons opt for autologous or “flap” techniques, which use an individual’s own tissue to create a more natural breast. Although these procedures generally require a longer operation and hospital stay, they result in a more natural look and feel to the breast. To learn more about breast reconstruction surgery call us at 410-569-5155.

Ramon DeJesus, MD
Plastic & Hand Surgery