breast cancer

BRCA Testing: Get the Facts 

breast cancerAs a woman, you are born with two types of breast cancer genes. The first is breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1); the second is breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2). While it may sound scary to have two genes named for breast cancer, their purpose is actually a noble one – to suppress tumor growth. But when a woman is born with, or experiences mutations of, this gene – which can be inherited from either a mother or a father – it may increase the risk of breast cancer.

Should You Be Tested?
If you are a woman with any of the following traits, you may want to consider BRCA testing:

Family history of breast cancer in more than one generation

  • More than one relative who tested positive for BRCA
  • Relatives diagnosed with cancer before age 50
  • Family history of ovarian cancer in more than one relative
  • One or more family members with cancer in both breasts
  • People of Jewish descent

Taking the First Step

If you’re considering genetic testing, you will need to meet with a genetic counselor to assess whether testing is right for you, as well as to discuss the risks, limitations and benefits of BRCA testing. Based on your family and medical history, the genetic counselor can outline your options. Most often, the BRCA test is a blood test. The test is done confidentially. A blood sample is drawn from your arm and taken to a lab for DNA analysis. Results can take several weeks.

What are the Implications of a Positive Result?
A positive test result indicates that you have a mutation in one of the breast cancer genes, making you more at risk for developing breast cancer or ovarian cancer as opposed to someone without the mutation. However, positive results don’t necessarily mean you’ll get cancer. There are certain procedures and medications designed to reduce your cancer risk, including increased screenings, oral contraceptives, certain medications and preventive surgery.

If you have questions about BRCA testing, or if you want to learn more about the range of services provided by Women’s Care of Beverly Hills Group, contact us directly at 310-657-1600.

birth-defects

What to Know About Birth Defects

birth-defectsIn January, National Birth Defects Prevention is recognized across the nation. Approximately one in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect in the U.S., and birth defects can range from mild to severe. They may affect organ function, physical or mental development, or appearance. To raise awareness about this serious condition during the month of January, here are some things you should know about birth defects:

  • Some birth defects can be diagnosed before birth.It is crucial to visit your doctor regularly while pregnant for tests like an ultrasound and amniocentesis, which can detect birth defects, heart defects and Down syndrome in utero.
  • There are many causes of birth defects.While the cause of most birth defects is unknown, it is true that birth defects can be linked to smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and using drugs like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.
  • There are ways pregnant women can keep their unborn baby safe.Simple things like washing your hands often can greatly decrease the risk of birth defects, especially washing after using the bathroom, touching raw meat, handling pets and caring for small children.
  • Some birth defects are detected after a baby leaves the hospital.A cleft lip or spina bifida is easily detected immediately after birth, while other birth defects like heart defects are not.
  • Taking folic acid daily is important. It is recommended that women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant take a vitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid each day. Folic acid helps reduce the risk of some serious birth defects of the brain and spine.

The good news is babies born with birth defects today can live healthier, longer lives when given special care and newborn screenings after birth.

If you have questions about  birth defects, or if you want to learn more about the range of services provided by Women’s Care of Beverly Hills Group, contact us directly at 310-657-1600.

 

Pregnancy

What NOT to Eat When You’re Expecting

PregnancyIf you’re eating for two, you already know that maintaining a healthy diet is important. But when it comes to eating while you’re pregnant, it’s also important to know which foods to avoid – foods that contain bacteria and chemicals that can be harmful to you and baby. But how do you know what you can and can’t eat during your pregnancy? Here’s a list of foods to embrace for the next nine months.

  • Caffeine. Drinking coffee in moderation is fine during pregnancy , but you’ll definitely need to curb your caffeine intake now that you’re pregnant. Lighten up on coffee and other sources of caffeinated beverages and energy drinks. Too much caffeine can make it hard for your body to absorb iron which can lead to anemia.
  • Unpasteurized cheeses. Soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk contain Listeria and other pathogens, so avoid eating Brie, goat cheese, feta. Instead, opt for harder cheeses like cheddar and Swiss.
  • Raw seafood. Tempting though it may be, just say no to sushi and oysters on the half shell while you’re pregnant as they increase your risk of digesting bacteria and parasites. But you don’t have to avoid seafood altogether. Just make sure it’s well cooked.
  • Alcohol. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. When alcohol enters your baby’s bloodstream, it lingers there twice as long as it does for you. So if you’re drinking an alcoholic beverage, your baby is too. But if you imbibed before you found out you were pregnant, not to worry. While having had a couple of drinks before you knew you were pregnant isn’t ideal, it is somewhat common. Just abstain going forward to be on the safe side.
  • Raw eggs. We’re not talking about sitting down to a bowl of raw eggs. But you may be surprised that raw eggs lurk in more places than you think. Refrain from eating raw cookie dough, mayonnaise and eggnog. And avoid Caesar dressing and hollandaise sauce unless you’re positive they’re egg-free. And, finally, order your omelets well done. You don’t want Salmonella rearing its ugly head.
  • Undercooked meat. Your body may be craving a rare cut of meat, but don’t give in. Undercooked meat can contain E. coli and Salmonella, both of which can cause food poisoning. Wait until after baby arrives to indulge on that medium-rare steak.

To learn more about the best foods for you and baby during pregnancy, contact Women’s Care of Beverly Hills Group to learn more about our range of services by calling 310-657-1600.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Helping You Handle PMS

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology defines premenstrual syndrome as “The cyclic occurrence of symptoms that are sufficiently severe to interfere with some aspects of life, and that appear consistent and predictable relationship to the menses (menstrual period).”

To which you just said, “Thanks for the enlightenment. Duh.”

The period before your period, with its fluctuating hormone levels, can be trying for both you and everyone around you. Husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends — everyone can be on guard and hiding all sharp objects!

At Women’s Care of Beverly Hills, we know exactly what you’re going through. And, while PMS is unfortunately a part of our lives, if yours is severe enough, we can provide various treatment options to help you get through it without purposefully running anyone over with your car!

What are the symptoms of PMS?

While there are many symptoms of PMS, they vary from woman to woman. You probably have your own personal greatest PMS hits list. Also, they can vary from month to month.

These are some common PMS symptoms:

  • Bloating
  • Headaches/backaches
  • Breast tenderness
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain
  • Aggression
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Food cravings
  • Irritability
  • Weepiness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

How do we diagnose PMS?

It’s important to verify that your symptoms are PMS related. At Women’s Care of Beverly Hills we use various methods to make sure you are suffering from PMS and not a problem with some similar symptoms such as thyroid disease. We often will test your thyroid to rule that out. We may have you keep a diary of symptoms. Then we’ll systematically rule out other conditions such as depression, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

How we help you with your PMS

The goal of our PMS treatment is to reduce the impact of it. At Women’s Care of Beverly Hills, we find that helping you modify your behavior can really help. Here are some of our PMS treatment strategies.

  • Exercise — As with most areas of life, exercise is helpful, especially aerobic exercise for PMS.
  • Education — We may have you keep a symptom diary. This will help you understand that how you feel is directly related to your cycles. Coping skills in other areas of life can help with your PMS. If your anxiety, irritability, or depression is severe, we may opt for counseling or medication.
  • Nutrition — Diet can play a role in the severity of your PMS symptoms. Reducing the amount of caffeine, salt, and sugar may relieve symptoms. Certain vitamins have proven important: vitamin B6, vitamin E, calcium, and magnesium. Complex carbohydrates can be helpful.
  • Medications — Pain relievers, obviously help with backaches and cramps. In cases of severe depression, we may prescribe antidepressants. For some patients, oral contraceptives have proven effective in mitigating some of the impact of PMS.

If you’re struggling PMS to the point that it is affecting your life, please call us at the Women’s Care of Beverly Hills, 310-657-1600.

Hysterectomy

When Is a Hysterectomy Necessary?

Hysterectomy Each year, more than half a million women in the U.S. have a hysterectomy, a surgical procedure to remove the uterus and sometimes the cervix and supporting tissues. If you aren’t menopausal, a hysterectomy will cause you to stop having monthly periods, effectively making it impossible for you to get pregnant. And if your ovaries are removed before menopause, the loss of female hormones brings the sudden onset of menopause. But how do you know if a hysterectomy is necessary?

This procedure can be beneficial to you if you have one of these conditions:

  • Uterine fibroids. These noncancerous growths in the wall of the uterus can sometimes cause heavy bleeding, pain, and pressure on the bladder or bowel. In other women, uterine fibroids have no symptoms. While female hormones are a factor with this condition, no one knows for sure what exactly causes uterine fibroids.
  • Abnormal or heavy bleeding. When vaginal bleeding is heavier than usual or lasts for longer than is normal for you, this may indicate the need for a hysterectomy.
  • Uterine prolapse. This occurs when your pelvic floor muscles and supportive tissues weaken and the the uterus slips down into the vagina. Uterine prolapse is common in women who have had several vaginal births, or in women who are obese or post-menopausal. This condition can cause pelvic discomfort and problems with bladder or bowel function.
  • Endometriosis. In this condition, the internal tissue that lines the uterus grows outside on the ovaries. This can cause severe pain, bleeding and, in some cases, infertility.
  • Adenomyosis. With adenomyosis,  the endometrial tissue, which normally lines the uterus, exists within and grows into the muscular wall of the uterus, causing the uterine walls to thicken. This can result in pain and severe bleeding. Adenomyosis is difficult to treat , which is why hysterectomy is often the best option.
  • Cancer. If you have cancer of the cervix, uterus, ovary or lining of the uterus (endometrium), a hysterectomy may be the best course of action.

There may be alternative treatment options to a hysterectomy. Before you undergo this major surgery, ask your doctor about alternative ways to treat your condition. To learn more about the hysterectomy process, or to learn more about our range of services, contact Women’s Care of Beverly Hills Group: 310-657-1600.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

Making Sense of Hormone Replacement Therapy

Hormone Replacement TherapyAs you reach menopause, your hormone levels tend to fluctuate, causing unpleasant symptoms like hot flashes and vaginal dryness. To relieve these symptoms, many women look to hormone replacement therapy (HRT), a treatment used to enhance your body’s natural hormone levels via estrogen therapy (ET) when you’ve had a hysterectomy, or as estrogen with progesterone therapy (EPT) if you naturally experience menopause.

Who Should Receive Hormone Replacement Therapy?
HRT can benefit women in their late 30s or early 40s who experience premature menopause by treating hot flashes or night sweats, and protecting against bone and cardiovascular disease until natural menopause sets in (at age 51 on average.)

The Benefits
The pros of hormone replacement therapy outweigh the risks for most women under age 60, including:

  • Reduction in heart disease
  • Less risk for hip fractures
  • Lowered risk of developing osteoporosis and diabetes
  • Reduction in hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness
  • Improved mood and sleep
  • Less muscle aches and pains
  • Lowered risk of colorectal cancer
  • Increased skin collagen and bone mass

The Risks
There are also some concerns regarding the use of HRT that largely depend on your health history and lifestyle, including:

  • Increased risk of breast cancer
  • Higher possibility of gallbladder disease
  • Greater risk of endometrial cancer
  • Heightened chance of ovarian cancer

It’s important for you and your health care provider to discuss the risks and benefits of HRT for you. If you and your doctor determine that HRT is a viable treatment, it is best to take the lowest dose necessary to effectively treat your symptoms for the shortest amount of time required. And to ensure that HRT is an effective treatment for you, have your hormone levels re-evaluated every six months.

To find out more about the latest findings in hormone replacement therapy, or to learn more about our range of services, contact Women’s Care of Beverly Hills Group: 310-657-1600.

Doula During Labor

Do You Need a Doula During Labor?

Doula During LaborThe word doula comes for the Greek term for “a woman who serves.” Today, the term is used to describe a woman who provides ongoing physical and emotional support to a mother and her partner during labor. This support can take on many forms, and can vary from patient to patient, depending on what the mother needs.

The role of a doula generally includes:

  • Assisting the mother in creating a birth plan
  • Providing bedside comfort, reassurance and encouragement during labor
  • Acting as a liaison between the mother and her healthcare provider
  • Documenting the birth experience
  • Providing assistance via massage and with breathing
  • Assistance with breast feeding

Determining whether or not a doula is necessary for you is an entirely personal decision. You may want your birth experience to be one that is shared by just you and her partner. Or you may do better with someone who can be intimately involved and work to keep you and your partner connected, essentially creating the ultimate support team. And if you don’t have a partner or support person, the role of a doula can become all the more valuable; you won’t have to go through labor alone.

The three main advantages of having a doula are:

  1. Experience. Because a doula has helped with numerous births, she can use these experiences to provide support. Your partner may not be equipped to help in certain situations like if the baby is in an awkward position, or if you feel nauseous or anxious. A doula will have learned methods to help in these situations.
  2. Intuition. Doulas often have their own children, so besides attending dozens of other women’s births, they’ve experienced childbirth themselves. This knowledge gives them instincts to draw from to support you while in labor.
  3. Emotional objectivity. A doula is able to distance herself and look at the bigger picture during labor. This will help make decisions based on experience and the situation at hand, rather than out of emotion or fear.

Regardless of whether you plan to give birth naturally or have an epidural or C-section, a doula can be a valued person to have on hand to provide information and emotional support during this life-changing event.

To find out more about whether having a doula at your delivery is right for you, contact Women’s Care of Beverly Hills Group to learn more about our range of services: 310-657-1600.

breast cancer

What Is BRCA Testing and Who Should Be Tested?

breast cancer There are two types of breast cancer genes every woman is born with: BRCA1 (breast cancer gene 1) and BRCA2 (breast cancer gene 2). These genes do not generally put a woman’s health at risk. In fact, their purpose is to actually suppress tumor growth. However, some women are born with – or experience mutations of – these genes in their lifetime. And when they mutate, they can increase the risk of breast cancer. These abnormal and mutated genes can be inherited from either your mother or your father.

Who Should Be Tested?
There are certain characteristics that indicate that BRCA testing may be necessary, including women with:

  • One or more relatives who have tested positive for BRCA
  • A history of breast cancer in more than one generation
  • Two or more close relatives who have had breast cancer
  • Family members who were diagnosed with cancer before age 50
  • A history of ovarian cancer in one or more family members
  • One or more family members with cancer in both breasts
  • Eastern and Central European Jewish ancestry with a strong family history of ovarian or breast cancer

What Is Involved?
There are three primary steps in BRCA testing. The first is genetic counseling, during which a genetic counselor will outline the tests that will take place, possible risks and the meaning of a positive and negative result. The second step involves a blood test and genetic analysis, and the third step is when the results of the test will be discussed. Most genetic testing is done anonymously; women are given a randomly assigned number for identification.

What Are the Benefits?
Even if you’ve already been diagnosed with breast cancer, BRCA testing can still be very valuable. It’s an excellent way for you and your physician to tailor a better treatment plan designed for BRCA-positive women. It’s also helpful in alerting other family members to their risk for BRCA in an effort to protect them against developing breast cancer.

To find out more about if BRCA testing may be right for you, contact Women’s Care of Beverly Hills Group to learn more about our range of services by calling 310-657-1600.

Endometriosis

Do You Have Endometriosis?

EndometriosisFor most women, heavy periods, menstrual cramps and pelvic pain can be attributed to simply being a woman. But when these ailments are severe, it could be a sign of endometriosis, a condition that affects your reproductive organs when the lining cells of the uterus grow outside of it.  It can produce mild to severe symptoms including persistent pain in the pelvic region, extremely painful periods and more. If you are a woman of child-bearing age, read on to learn more about the most common symptoms of endometriosis.

  1. Heavy, painful periods

In general, the pain begins days prior to your period and lasts the duration of your menstrual cycle. Your period will be extremely heavy, and you may even notice clots in your period blood.

  1. Pain in the lower abdomen and pelvis

For some women this pain is constant, but it usually gets worse on the days leading up to and during your period. That being said, not every woman experiences pelvic pain with endometriosis, which is why endometriosis is not diagnosed in many cases.

  1. Intestinal pain

When you have endometriosis, you may experience constipation, diarrhea and pain with bowel movements. Many women mistake this for a gastrointestinal issue, which is why endometriosis can be confused with irritable bowel syndrome or food intolerance.

  1. Pain during intercourse

This pain can happen during intercourse and may continue for a few hours afterward. It can be even more painful when you’re about to start your period or when you’re menstruating. If you experience painful sex combined with abdominal pain, there is a much greater chance you have endometriosis.

  1. Reduced fertility
    Nearly half of women with endometriosis experience difficulty becoming pregnant. The reason for this may be because clumps of endometriosis block the egg’s path to the fallopian tube. Many women don’t even know they have endometriosis until they have difficulty conceiving and go to their doctor to help pinpoint the problem.

If you are experiencing one or a combination of the symptoms listed above, or if you have questions about endometriosis, contact Women’s Care of Beverly Hills Group to learn more about our range of services by calling 310-657-1600.

Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational Diabetes: What You Need to Know

Gestational DiabetesGestational diabetes is a condition that develops in pregnant women, usually during the second trimester. It and occurs when your pancreas does not make enough insulin to keep your blood sugar stable. The good news is, if it’s treated and managed well during pregnancy, gestational diabetes goes away once your baby is born.

If you’re pregnant, it’s important for you to know the risk factors associated with gestational diabetes in order to make sure you and your baby stay healthy and free of complications during this important and exciting time of your life. While gestational diabetes can affect any pregnant woman, there are some dynamics that make you more susceptible to developing the condition, including:

  • Family or personal history of diabetes
  • Being over age 25
  • Being obese before becoming pregnant
  • A pattern of miscarriages or stillbirths that are unexplained
  • Polyhydramnios (an excess amount of amniotic fluid)
  • Being African American, Hispanic, American Indian or Asian
  • High blood pressure

If you experience any of the following symptoms, you may have gestational diabetes:

  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Urinating frequently
  • Extreme thirst
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight loss despite an increased appetite

Taking Control of Gestational Diabetes
If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, there are steps you can take to manage your condition:

  1. Check Your Blood Sugar Frequently
    During pregnancy, and up to labor and delivery, your blood sugar will continue to be assessed. And once you’ve given birth, it will continue to be monitored, as women who have gestational diabetes are at higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes in the future.
  2. Exercise Regularly
    This goes for all women who are pregnant, but if you have gestational diabetes, staying active is critical. Exercise triggers a decrease in blood sugar levels, prompting your body to transport glucose into your cells and use it for energy.
  3. Eat right
    It’s important to eat foods low in calories and fat. Instead, incorporate those that are high in fiber and nutrition like fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

If you have questions about gestational diabetes, or if you want to learn more about the range of services provided by Women’s Care of Beverly Hills Group, contact us directly at 310-657-1600.