Sunday, May 3, 2015

Uterine Fibroids: Today's Hidden Epidemic

For a condition that affects 80% of black women and 70% of white women causing symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding, fatigue, fertility problems, difficult pregnancies, anemia, pelvic pressure, frequent urination, painful intercourse, lower back pain, and abdominal distension, uterine fibroids do not receive the attention they deserve.

Source: Shutterstock

These benign tumors that form throughout the uterus, believed to thrive off estrogen, occur post puberty and most often after age 30. Because they range in size, fibroids can be as small as microscopic specks or as big as melons weighing next to nothing or tens in pounds. At their most aggressive, they invade a woman's uterus, growing in or outside its walls, under the interior surface, or as exterior stalks and bases.

Many women live with them without discomfort because they do not grow large, but at their worst, aggressive fibroids result in gynecologists presenting to sufferers options that include medication; myomectomy, surgical excision of the growths alone that preserves fertility by leaving the uterine intact; or hysterectomy, removal of the uterus, which eliminates further possibilities of childbearing.

Besides the physical discomforts and complications fibroids impose on women's lives, they also take a heavy economic toll on the US economy. A recent Essence Magazine article claims they cost $34 billion annually in productivity loss, medical treatments, and pregnancy complications.

According to the National Institutes of Health, "Research shows that over 90% of women who are newly diagnosed with fibroids will seek medical or surgical treatment for the condition within a year of the diagnosis. In 2000, more than 250,000 hospital admissions were related to uterine fibroids. Every year, fibroids lead to more than 200,000 hysterectomies."

So if fibroids affect so many women requiring them to endure major surgeries with at-times extended recuperation periods, why don't we hear more about them? In the Essence Magazine article mentioned above, there is focus on the White Dress Project founded by Tanika Gray Valbrun, who hopes to elevate the discussion on fibroids to federal and global levels as a crucial women's reproductive issue.

"There are so many women suffering with this epidemic. Rarely can you bring up the topic and a woman not have some familiarity with the issue--whether it's her mother, aunt, sister, or she suffers with it personally. I believe it's time for our government, influencers and policy makers to speak about this issue and allocate the funding needed to enhance research, educate more women on their options and find a cure," Valbrun says.

This writer agrees. There needs to be more education on fibroids for all women so they recognize the symptoms and take early steps to prevent or abolish them from their wombs.  As women, their loved ones, and allies become more aware, they will develop the coalitions that advocate for policy change targeting the specific needs of the affected.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Commemorating Breast Cancer Awareness Month by Honoring Survivors

During a special breakfast on October 24, NHC recognized the tremendous obstacles surmounted by the breast cancer survivors among its patient population. Linda Grace, Nadine Jamison and Esther Perry quietly shared their stories of survival that began this year for Grace and six years ago respectively for Jamison and Perry.  

For Grace, she was laying in bed when she felt an abnormal growth. She took her concerns to Cindy Lauer, nurse practitioner and director of HSNHC's Women's Health Program, whom referred her to specialized care. Her treatment plan included a partial mastectomy, lump removals from her breasts, followed by eight weeks of chemotherapy and then eight weeks of radiation. "They say I'm cancer free. My mammogram was negative.  That's where I'm at.  I'm getting my appetite back and getting into myself again."

Jamison is a two-time survivor, receiving her diagnoses in 1994 and 2004.  In 1994, her treatment consisted of six weeks of radiation.  When her cancer returned in 2004, oncologists discovered a small mass the size of a tiny pinhead in one of the mammograms performed on her every six months since her first diagnosis. Her treatment plan continued over four years during her second care cycle.  Ultimately, she and her providers opted for full mastectomies, the removal of all breast tissue, in 2008. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Scrapping Obamacare's Healthcare.gov for Medicare.gov


The problems plaguing HealthCare.gov saturate the news cycle as one story after another documents the difficulties uninsured Americans are encountering as they attempt to sign up for health insurance coverage on the online federal exchange.  The question that comes to mind as I hear the stories about low sign-up rates due to glitches on the exchange is why wasn't HealthCare.gov built in the image of medicare.gov?

We are currently in Medicare's open enrollment period, October 15th to December 7, and I have been working with beneficiaries to sign them up or review their current plan options through medicare.gov, Medicare's official website.  The website works seamlessly as I research its databases to find available plans; review costs and benefits; screen beneficiaries for Extra Help or Prescription Advantage, the federal and state federal assistance programs that help low-income and low-asset beneficiaries with Medicare Part D drug plan costs; and provide enrollment assistance.


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Vermont Moves Ahead With Plans for Universal Healthcare System as Nation Implements Obamacare


In 2017, Vermont is expected to launch Green Mountain Care (GMC), its mostly payroll-tax financed, single-payer healthcare system, in which the state instead of private insurers will cover healthcare costs. Providers will be allocated a set budget for a set number of patients, as the state phases out the current fee for service system that reimburses providers for each task they perform.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Finally! A Resource for Evaluating Nursing Home Care


There are 1.5 million people in nursing homes throughout the nation, and the population is expected to grow by 40% over the next decade.  


Source: auroragov.org
For those seeking a tool that assesses the state of these facilities as they or their relatives consider entering one, there's a guide in Families for Better Care's recent report that evaluates each state's care delivery. 

Organized as a report card, the document assigns a letter grade to each state. Topping the report's list with A's are Alaska, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Oregon, Maine, Utah, Idaho, South Dakato and North Dakota. Earning F's are Texas, Louisiana, Indiana, Oklahoma, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Michigan, Nevada, Illinois and Iowa. 


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Nigeria Debates Child Marriage as Swaziland Ties Ban on Practice to Health, Fight Against HIV


Lately, there has been a flurry of activities on the issue of child marriage in various parts of the world, including Africa.

In July, the Nigerian legislature attempted but failed to repeal a provision in its constitution that allows child marriage. Sen. Ahmed Yerima, who married a 13-year-old Egyptian child in 2010 at age 49 after paying a $100,000 dowry, successfully foiled the repeal by framing it as an attack on Islam.

Meanwhile in Swaziland, a soccer player was arrested for violating the country's 2012 Child Protection and Welfare Act, which banned marriages between young women under age 18 and adult men. Violators face an R20,000 ($2,000) fine, statutory rape charges, the marriage's annulment and up to 20 years imprisonment. Colluding parents face similar charges.   

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Partnership Between Chronically Ill Patients and Their Providers the Way of the Future


Marshall Kettelhut, who lives with the challenge of managing a multitude of serious conditions such as diabetes, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, obesity, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and irregular heartbeat — as well as bouts of anxiety and depression, frequently gets sneak peaks into how chronic diseases will be managed in the future.