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Information About Menorrhagia

If you suffer from excessive menstrual bleeding, you're not alone. Menorrhagia, as it is known, affects roughly one in four healthy women in the United States. Characterized by heavy periods that last more than seven days, this condition is usually caused by hormonal imbalance or uterine fibroids, according to Norman Armstrong, MD, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Virginia Hospital Center.

While excessive bleeding can sometimes be a sign of uterine or ovarian cancer, the vast majority of women with menorrhagia do not have cancer. Nevertheless, it can be uncomfortable and disruptive to everyday activities.

Fortunately, there are several diagnostic and therapeutic procedures now available for menorrhagia in lieu of hysterectomy. Fibroids, polyps and similar benign lesions (which account for 80% of cases) can be detected via ultrasound and treated on an outpatient basis using methods that are much less invasive than major surgery. Procedures such as hysteroscopy and laparoscopic myomectomy use different kinds of thin, tube-like instruments to remove lesions from the uterine wall. These treatments will allow a woman to keep her uterus in case she wants to have children, but because they often weaken the uterine wall, future births may require cesarean section.

For women who have passed their childbearing years, yet another alternative is endometrial ablation, or NovaSure, which delivers a precisely controlled dose of energy via a slender, handheld wand to remove the endometrial lining. This quick, simple procedure requires no incision and no endometrial pre-treatment. It can be performed in an outpatient setting, under local or regional anesthesia, and generally takes less than 5 minutes, significantly less time than any other endometrial ablation procedure, so recovery time is quicker. The NovaSure Endometrial Ablation procedure provides an effective and minimally invasive alternative to hysterectomy, while avoiding the potential side effects and long term risks of hormone therapy.

If you're experiencing abnormal menstrual bleeding, don't rely on girlfriends or family members for health information. Keep a menstrual calendar that chronicles the dates and severity of each period, and then share that information with your physician. Patterns tracked over time can often shed light on what's causing heavy bleeding, leading to quicker diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

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