Majority of Women Do Not Seek Treatment for Health Condition Affecting 1 in 5

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Menorrhagia and women's health

National Women's Health Resource Center Urges Increased Education for Menorrhagia, an Under-Diagnosed Condition Affecting 20 Percent of Women.

The not-for-profit National Women's Health Resource Center (NWHRC) today announced the results of a national survey of more than 600 women who experience excessive menstrual bleeding, clinically referred to as menorrhagia. The survey found that most women (58 percent) have not discussed their condition with a healthcare provider, despite the fact that menorrhagia greatly impacts their lives and is easily treated. Among the small number of women who have sought treatment, more than three-quarters (82 percent) had to initiate the dialogue with their healthcare provider, and the majority (62 percent) waited more than one year to do so.

Excessive menstrual bleeding is a debilitating health condition that affects approximately 10 million women in the U.S. each year, Although menorrhagia is not fatal, women with the condition face a number of devastating effects, from fatigue and anemia, caused by the extreme loss of blood, to embarrassing accidents and restricted activity that wreak havoc on personal and professional lives. One in five women surveyed missed one week of work or more in the past year due to this condition.

"Given the dramatic impact this condition has on a women's daily life, it is unfortunate that the majority of women we surveyed accepted this monthly burden as something they just have to live with, when in fact that is not the case at all," said Amy Niles, president and CEO of NWRHC. "This condition restricts women in the most personal ways, from their sexual activity to spending quality time with their families and friends."

The National Women's Health Resource Center conducted the survey of 653 women between the ages of 35 and 49 to examine attitudes toward menorrhagia; the extent to which women communicate their condition to physicians; how excessive menstrual bleeding affects women in the workplace, with family, and in their ability to pursue recreational activities; as well as knowledge of treatment options.

The following key findings suggest an urgent need for additional education and awareness about this prevalent health issue.

  • Excessive menstrual bleeding has a severe impact on women's professional and personal lives. More than half of survey respondents have made adjustments in their lives to accommodate their condition: Roughly half report missing a social or athletic event and four out of five report a negative affect on their sexual relationships. One-fifth of respondents report they have been forced to miss work as a result of their condition.

  • Excessive menstrual bleeding has a severe impact on women's physical health and well-being. Most women surveyed experience severe symptoms regularly such as fatigue, depression or moodiness, bad cramps and headaches. 38 percent experience anemia "often" or "sometimes."

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  • Physicians do not introduce the issue with their patients. Women usually suffer from the condition for a lengthy period of time before seeking treatment. One in four had heavy periods for more than five years before seeking medical treatment. When women decide to seek treatment from a healthcare provider, it's because the situation has become highly disruptive to their daily lives. However, nearly every respondent who spoke with a doctor about their condition introduced the topic.

  • Few women are treated. Most women (83 percent) consider excessive menstrual bleeding to be something they have to "put up with" and two-thirds don't ask their doctor about this treatable condition. Self-medicating is common: 92 percent of women simply try to manage the situation with more rest. Nearly half seek over-the-counter remedies. Among the women who have been forced to miss work, many identify a lack of health insurance as the reason why they have not sought treatment. Hispanic women in particular are much less likely to seek aid or treatment.

"Treatment for this condition is broadly available," continued Ms. Niles. "What's critical is that women and their health care provider discuss menstruation as part of a routine physical exam. Beginning a dialogue about this vastly under-diagnosed condition and available treatment options, both between a woman and her doctor and among national healthcare leaders, is the first critical step toward helping women live healthier more enjoyable lives."

Historically, hysterectomy has been a common and, for many, a successful treatment option. However, for women who wish to avoid major surgery (and the associated side effects) as well as preserve their uterus, several treatment options for excessive menstrual bleeding have evolved over the years. These include hormone therapy, which is usually effective 50 percent of the time; dilation and curettage (D&C), which is typically effective for fifteen percent of women but the benefits are most often temporary; and second-generation endometrial ablation, a 90-second outpatient procedure that can provide women who have completed childbearing with a safe and effective option.

The results of the survey were released this morning on Capitol Hill during a briefing hosted by the Jacobs Institute for Women's Health. A panel of experts and a patient addressed the need for increased education among women and physicians about excessive menstrual bleeding and widely available treatment options.

"Heavy cycles run in my family," said Joan LaRock of McLean, Virginia and a panelist for this morning's briefing. "My twin sister suffered from the condition first and had a hysterectomy. Her experience probably kept me from discussing my condition with my doctor until it became too much for me to take. When I finally spoke with my doctor, I told him about my wish to avoid a hysterectomy. The treatment he recommended gave me my life back. Today, I am more available to my children, sleep through the night and can better meet the demands of my busy career."

The National Women's Health Resource Center has also released a Women's Health Updates on the topic of excessive menstrual bleeding, which will provide useful facts about the condition and treatment options. Women can also visit www.healthywomen.org to take a short quiz to evaluate whether or not they may suffer from excessive menstrual bleeding, print out a list of questions to ask their physician and access other online resources.

For the complete survey results, please call 1-888-406-9472. The survey and campaign materials were made possible by an unrestricted educational grant from Cytyc Corporation.

The National Women's Health Resource Center, Inc. is a leading independent health information source for women. The not-for-profit organization develops and disseminates the most up-to-date and objective women's health information based on the latest advances in medical research and medical practice. NWHRC believes that informed women are healthy women.

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