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Questions you may want to ask your Gynecologist

Many women assume pains and annoyances that come with monthly periods or menopause are something they simply need to tolerate. But if any woman has a new or worsening issue that is affecting her quality of life, it should be brought up to her doctor during an annual exam.

Some women worry a change in their menstrual cycle or pain could be associated with a serious or untreatable illness like cancer, says Dr. Marsha Bornt with Apple Hill Gynecology in York, Pa. Others simply think they can’t do anything about the symptoms.

“It seems that many women think issues such as bad cramps or heavy periods are just part of being a woman,” Dr. Bornt says.

But many health issues can be cared for through medication and other treatment, and mentioning those issues to your doctor is important in case they’re linked to a disease that could impact fertility or other future health.

When should I talk to my doctor about pain? Some cramping is normal during a woman’s period, but a gynecologist should be consulted if cramping arises outside of menstruation or is excessive.

Pain can cause a dip in quality of life, especially for preteens and teenagers who are still getting used to their cycle. Dr. Bornt says that when girls are not able to participate in activities like sports because of their symptoms, she looks at ways to improve their quality of life.

Especially in teenagers, gynecologists should be vigilant in checking for underlying causes of excessive pain and bleeding, such as conditions like endometriosis, a disorder in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside the uterus.

Because teenagers often don’t know the amount of pain and bleeding that is normal for their cycle, it’s the responsibility of parents and doctors to pay attention to symptoms.

Endometriosis affects an estimated six to 10 percent of female Americans of reproductive age, or 5 million people in the United States, according to the National Institute of Health. However, the actual number of affected women is likely to be much higher because endometriosis is vastly underdiagnosed, Dr. Bornt says.

It’s important to mention these symptoms to your doctor so she can not only manage them but can properly diagnose the disease or issue associated with them, Dr. Bornt says. Diseases like endometriosis can have impacts on future fertility.

“If not picked up when the patient is a teenager, it can go on to cause infertility, and that patient might choose to have children earlier than initially planned,” Dr. Bornt says. “It’s important to get[symptoms under control and caught early.”

Is bleeding a normal part of being a woman?

In addition to pain, bleeding is the other common issue Dr. Bornt hears about from patients at her York, Pa., gynecologist office. The birth control pill was originally created to help women treat pain and excessive bleeding during menstruation and is often what doctors continue to prescribe to patients.

Although some women of reproductive age may have a heavier monthly period than others, women should let a doctor know if their flow gets heavier over time. This could be a sign of a treatable medical condition like polyps or hormonal imbalances.

Many issues evolve over time, and Dr. Bornt asks her patients to compare any issues to how they felt 10 years ago. Often, women don’t realize things are getting worse because they happen so gradually.

Women should also speak to their doctors if they have bleeding or spotting outside of their period. Post-menopausal women should never have any vaginal bleeding or spotting and should consult their doctor if this ever happens, Dr. Bornt says.

Can anything help my hot flashes?

Common menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes can often be treated by medication. Just because this change of life is associated with uncomfortable adjustments doesn’t mean those symptoms can’t be treated, Dr. Bornt says.

“Women accept it as normal,” she says. “But they don’t have to live with it. This is a quality of life issue, and we want women to be able to sleep and go through their daily activities.”

With all symptoms and issues women may have, Dr. Bornt and her staff of gynecologists at Apple Hill Gynecology in York want to make sure their patients have an open line of communication to help their patients live their best lives.

“Feel free to mention anything that seems different or abnormal,” she says. “I know I can help my patients best when I have a good understanding of how they feel.”

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