Archive for the ‘Menopause’ Category

June 21, 2008

Double Dose: Abstinence-Only Funding Survives Another Vote; Statement of Black Men Against the Exploitation of Black Women; UN Addresses Rape as War Crime; Debate Over Islam and Virginity; Shopping for Breast Cancer and More …

Best Headline: “Abstinence-only funding is like an evil Energizer Bunny,” courtesy of Vannesa at Feministing. Why the evil? The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies voted to continue funding the Community-Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) program, an abstinence-only education funding stream, despite all the research that’s it’s a waste of money and resources. Scott Swenson of RH Reality Check has a good wrap-up here.

Share This: Via Brownfemipower, I found an online petition — Statement of Black Men Against the Exploitation of Black Women — written in the wake of R. Kelly’s acquittal. The petition and related useful books, films and organizations are also listed on Mark Anthony Neal’s blog, which itself is a terrific resource on issues on issues of race and masculinity.

UN Addresses Rape as a War Crime: “In Sudan, girls as young as four are raped by rebel forces and government-backed militias. In Democratic Republic of Congo, women are sexually mutilated by roving gangs. In Burma, they are systematically raped as part of a military offensive,” writes Olivia Ward in the Toronto Sun. “[Thursday], the United Nations Security Council agreed that sexual violence against women and girls in war zones is a threat to international stability, opening the way for action against countries that condone or promote atrocities.”

Here’s more from the BBC, and the full text of UN Resolution 1820, which states that “rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity or a constitutive act with respect to genocide.” The 15-member Security Council also demanded the “immediate and complete cessation by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence against civilians.”

In Europe, Debate Over Islam and Virginity: From The New York Times:

As Europe’s Muslim population grows, many young Muslim women are caught between the freedoms that European society affords and the deep-rooted traditions of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations.

Gynecologists say that in the past few years, more Muslim women are seeking certificates of virginity to provide proof to others. That in turn has created a demand among cosmetic surgeons for hymen replacements, which, if done properly, they say, will not be detected and will produce tell-tale vaginal bleeding on the wedding night. The service is widely advertised on the Internet; medical tourism packages are available to countries like Tunisia where it is less expensive.

“If you’re a Muslim woman growing up in more open societies in Europe, you can easily end up having sex before marriage,” said Dr. Hicham Mouallem, who is based in London and performs the operation. “So if you’re looking to marry a Muslim and don’t want to have problems, you’ll try to recapture your virginity.”

A 23-year-old French student of Moroccan descent who paid $2,900 for the procedure, said: “In my culture, not to be a virgin is to be dirt … Right now, virginity is more important to me than life.”

Plus: Read Judith Warner’s column, which links hymen surgery, father-daughter purity balls and other news stories related to patriarchy and female chastity.

World Refugee Day: In recognition of the 8th Annual UN World Refugee Day on June 20, Worldview looked at the plight of Iraqi refugees.

Cervical Cancer Screenings Lacking in Developing Countries: “A study published in the open-access journal PLoS Medicine has found that women in the developing world are not getting the cervical cancer screenings that they need,” according to Medical News Today. “Researcher Emmanuela Gakidou (University of Washington) and colleagues report that although women in the developing world have the highest risk of developing cervical cancer, few are effectively screened. Additionally, there exist severe inequalities between and within countries concerning the access to cervical cancer screening.”

Plus: A survey of 38,000 Canadian women found that obese women are significantly less likely (30 to 40 percent, depending on the degree of obesity) to be tested for cervical cancer than women of average body weight, according to CBC News. Breast and colon cancer screening are unaffected by a woman’s body mass.

Shopping for Breast Cancer: The Center for Media & Democracy’s PRWatch recently posted an article about “Pinkwashing” — which is what happens when corporations try to boost sales by associating their products with the fight against breast cancer. “The worst pinkwashers exploit the intense emotions associated with breast cancer while selling products that actually contribute to breast cancer,” writes Ann Landman, who goes on to offer some key examples, including a Ford 2008 V-6 Mustang with Warriors in Pink Package, which proclaims to “add more muscle to the fight.”

Landman also links to Breast Cancer Action’s excellent Think Before You Pink campaign.

Study Finds Drop in Use of HRT: “Fewer older women in Canada are using hormone-replacement therapies to treat the symptoms of menopause, turning instead to natural remedies, says a study released Thursday,” reports The Vancouver Sun.

“The Canadian Institute for Health Information has found only five per cent of women in five provinces who are 65 years and older use hormone-replacement therapies — a drop from 14 per cent six years ago, when a report found the risks of using the menopause therapies outweigh the benefits.”

The Number of Underinsured Grows: Via the L.A. Times – A new study published in Health Affairs journal found that 25 million people ages 19 to 64 were underinsured in 2007, up from 16 million in 2003.

Nearly 50 million additional people have no health insurance at all. In all, “You end up with about 75 million adults who were either underinsured or uninsured at some time during the year,” says study co-author Sara Collins, an assistant vice president of the Commonwealth Fund, a foundation that supports independent healthcare research.

Those who had inadequate insurance coverage were almost as likely as those with no insurance to avoid getting needed care or to suffer medically related financial problems. Some 53% of the underinsured went without needed care, compared with 68% of the uninsured. And 45% of underinsured people had trouble paying medical bills, compared with 51% of uninsured people. “You can have health insurance and still go bankrupt if you get sick,” the authors note.

ACLU Symposium on LGBTQ Rights: Melissa points to a number of pieces posted at the symposium, including her piece on gay marriage written as a LGBTQ ally. I loved what Rachel Maddow had to say in an interview with the ACLU:

So far the state where I grew up (California) and the state where I live (Massachusetts) and the state where I work most of the time (New York) have legalized, legalized, and agreed-to-recognize-other-states’ same-sex-marriages, respectively. I am accepting applications now from other states that want me to relocate, since apparently I am to second-class gay citizenship what Saint Patrick was to snakes.

April 27, 2008

Double Dose: Illinois Court Rules on Sterilization; Choosy Mothers Choose … Well, Not This C-Section Story; Fundamentalism Comes Under Public Health Scrutiny; Botox, Body Image and Aging; Coming of Age on Antidepressants; and More

Court Denies Bid to Sterilize Mentally Disabled Woman: “Disability rights advocates and medical ethicists praised a precedent-setting ruling Friday by the Illinois Appellate Court denying a bid to sterilize a mentally disabled woman against her will,” reports the Chicago Tribune.

The woman’s guardian had sought a tubal ligation, but a three-judge panel ruled unanimously that the guardian did not prove sterilization was in the woman’s best interest. There are “less intrusive and less psychologically harmful [birth-control] alternatives,” read the opinion.

“It’s extraordinarily significant” because it guarantees the disabled a court hearing, said Katie Watson, a Northwestern University professor who wrote a friend-of-the-court brief in the case on behalf of about two dozen medical ethicists.

“In the past, this was a decision that could be made between a guardian and a doctor,” she said. “The decision must be moved into the light.”

Choosy Mothers Choose … Well, Not This C-Section Story: Time magazine’s “Choosy Mothers Choose Caesareans” is problematic on multiple levels — but mainly for overplaying the role of women requesting elective c-sections as the reason being the skyrocketing caesarean rate, and downplaying the risks involved. Lucinda Marshall rocks with a great response.

Plus: For more information, read “Maternal Request for Cesarean Delivery: Myth or Reality?” — a summary of the latest research and articles compiled by Our Bodies Ourselves.

Fundamentalism Comes Under Public Health Scrutiny: From Women’s eNews: “Amid the growing influence of fundamentalism around the world, Asian researchers say women in almost any affected religion — Christian, Muslim or Hindu — pay the price in eroded health and safety.” Read the story by Swapna Majumdar, a journalist based in New Delhi.

Take Two on Time Off: “This year marks the 15th anniversary of the landmark Family and Medical Leave Act, which made it possible for many workers to take unpaid job-protected time off to care for their newborn children or sick relatives,” writes Nancy Trejos at the Washington Post. “But instead of celebrating, workers’ rights advocates and the Bush administration are battling over what would be the most sweeping revisions ever to the law.”

Trejos notes that a “fierce debate” has been sparked by some proposed changes, which have yielded more than 4,000 public comments:

Under proposals being considered by the Labor Department, workers would have to tell their bosses in advance when they take nonemergency leave, instead of being able to wait until two days after they left. They would have to undergo “fitness-for-duty” evaluations if they took intermittent leave for medical reasons and wanted to return to physically demanding jobs. To prove that they had a “serious health condition,” they would have to visit a health-care provider at least twice within a month of falling ill. What’s more, employers would have the right to contact health-care providers who authorized leave.

Botox and Disrespect of Aging: “The 2,775,176 Botox treatments in 2007, at a cost of more than $1 billion dollars neatly expresses the desperation some people feel about physical signs of aging,” writes Ronni Bennett, before going on to discuss recent studies on the potential dangers of Botox and the FDA’s make-your-own-personal-judgment advice to consumers.

Coming of Age on Antidepressants: Writing in The New York Times, Richard A. Friedman, MD, reflects on the remarks of a 31-year-old patient who has been treated for depression since she was a teen: “I’ve grown up on medication,” she said. “I don’t have a sense of who I really am without it.”

The patient credited the medication with saving her life, “but now she was raising an equally fundamental question: how the drugs might have affected her psychological development and core identity.” Friedman continues:

Her experience is far from unique. Since their emergence in the late 1980s, serotonin reuptake inhibitors like Prozac and Zoloft have become some of the most widely prescribed drugs in the world, for depressed teenagers as well as adults. Because depression is often a chronic, recurring illness, there are certain to be many young people, like Julie, who are coming of age on these newer antidepressants.

We know a lot about the course of untreated depression, probably more than we do about very long-term antidepressant use in this population.

Plus: Friedman and Norman Rosenthal, MD, were both guests on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” on Thursday, discussing the physical and psychological effects of taking antidepressants long-term.

Ireland Releases Study on Menopause: Ireland’s Minister for Health, Mary Harney, published “Menopause and Me,” hailed as the largest ever study in Ireland on awareness, attitudes and experiences of menopause, according to The Irish Times. Ireland’s Women’s Health Council carried out the study, which is available online here.

Performance Artist Killed on Peace Trip: An Italian performance artist, Pippa Bacca, 33, was raped and killed by a driver who offered her a ride just three weeks into a hitchhiking trip from Italy to the Balkans to the Middle East. Bacca and her friend, Silvia Moro, 37, both wore wedding dresses as part of their “Brides on Tour” project, created to send a message of peace and “marriage between different peoples and nations.” Elisabetta Povoledo writes in The New York Times:

The performance piece, a trip through nearly a dozen countries in the Balkans and the Middle East, many of them ravaged by war recently, was meant to underscore that “by overcoming differences and lowering the level of conflict,” individuals and cultures could come together, Ms. Moro said in a telephone interview. “Meeting people was the key.”

Accepting rides with strangers was crucial to the art performance’s success, Ms. Moro said. The artists’ statement at their Web site,, says, “Hitchhiking is choosing to have faith in other human beings, and man, like a small god, rewards those who have faith in him.”

Ms. Moro explained: “It’s a poor way of traveling, and we wanted to underscore that you can’t foster love between people if you’re holed up in business class. You can’t go to, say, Mauritius, and eat pasta. You won’t understand people until you break bread with them, because it’s in the small diversities that you find similarities.”

March 6, 2008

Coping with Menopause in Rural Areas

A report published in The Journal of Advanced Nursing found that women living in rural areas may have extra pressures in coping with menopause, including “geographical isolation, lack of confidentiality and anonymity, stress from multiple roles (including caring for aging relatives), poverty and limited health care and support services”

The study was only of 25 women, but the findings make sense. Limited access to doctors, support groups and factual information can make any condition or disease more stressful. Sheri L. Price, a nurse researcher who specializes in women’s health at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, suggests some very practical solutions to scarce health care resources:

“One solution may be for advanced practice nurses or nurse practitioners – who have received additional training in women’s health – to offer holistic care and comprehensive support to rural women going through the menopause,” says Sheri Price. “This would enhance the women’s well-being as they go through menopause and enable them to optimise their health as they age.

“Another option may be to train female community leaders to deliver local information sessions and help to set up support groups. Community leaders with personal menopausal experiences would also be able to offer further validation and support to women.”

Such low-cost solutions aren’t groundbreaking, either, but they reinforce the need for grassroots community involvement in any comprehensive health care program.

For more on addressing menopause, check out the information on midlife and menopause from Our Bodies Ourselves.

February 24, 2008

Double Dose: BCA Blasts Approval of Avastin; Short Maternity Leave for Women in the Military; Do Cellphones Affect Male Fertility?; More on Migraines; Debating “Juno”

Score One for the Patient: A breast cancer patient whose medical coverage was canceled by her insurer was awarded more than $9 million from her for-profit insurer, Health Net Inc., reports the L.A. Times. “The award issued by an arbitration judge was the first of its kind and prompted Health Net to announce it was scrapping its cancellation practices that are under fire from state regulators, patients and the Los Angeles city attorney.”

BCA Blasts Approval of Avastin: In a surprise move, the FDA approved the use of Avastin as a treatment for breast cancer. “The big question was whether it was enough for a drug temporarily to stop cancer from worsening — as Avastin had done in a clinical trial — or was it necessary for a drug to enable patients to live longer, which Avastin had failed to do. Oncologists and patient advocates were divided, in part because of the drug’s sometimes severe side effects,” writes Andrew Pollack.

“In the end, the agency found a compromise of sorts. It gave Avastin ‘accelerated’ approval, which allows drugs for life-threatening diseases to reach the market on the basis of less than ideal data, subject to further study.”

Breast Cancer Action blasted the decision. “The FDA has lowered the bar on the approval of breast cancer therapies. At a time when many questions are being raised about how the FDA approves drugs for market, today’s decision is a victory for drug companies, but not for patients,” BCA Executive Director Barbara A. Brenner said a statement posted at Prescription Access Legislation.

Short Maternity Leaves, Long Deployments: The Washington Post reports on the difficulty women in the military face if they want to have children and keep their jobs. Ann Scott Tyson writes:

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have placed severe strains on the Army, including longer deployments in which soldiers serve 15 months in the war zone, followed by 12 months at home. Under that system, a woman who wishes to have a child and remain with her unit must conceive soon after returning home so she can give birth, recover and prepare for her next overseas tour.

Female soldiers interviewed over the past year say the tight schedule cuts short precious time for mother and infant to bond and breast-feed, forcing women to choose between their loyalty to their comrades — as well as their careers — and nurturing their families.

Vaccinating Boys for Girls’ Sake?: The New York Times looks at efforts to convince parents to vaccinate boys to prevent the spread of human papillomavirus, or HPV, which can lead to cervical cancer. HPV also causes anal and penile cancers, but these are much more rare. (Read our previous coverage of the HPV vaccine Gardasil here.)

One woman tells the NYT, “You don’t want to say it’s just the girls’ problem … But my sons won’t contract cervical cancer. And genital warts are treatable. I’m very skeptical. What risks will I expose them to?”

Another woman comments, “If there was a vaccine I could take that would get rid of prostate cancer, why wouldn’t I? … If there was a vaccine that sons could get that would get rid of breast cancer, most parents wouldn’t hesitate. But cervical cancer is the ‘sex cancer.’”

Do Cellphones Affect Male Fertility?: Some studies suggest as much, but the data is limited, writes Tara Parker-Pope, adding, “There are some global concerns about declining male fertility in industrialized countries, but issues like pollutants, exposure to chemicals and smoking are likely far more worrisome culprits than cellphones.”

The Studies Surrounding DHEA: The L.A. Times “Healthy Skeptic” column looks at the anti-aging claims of DHEA and finds it’s no fountain of youth.

More on Migraines (and Music): I’ve mentioned the group blog on migraines at The New York Times — be sure to check out Paula Kamen’s latest post on leaving the rabbit hole. Kamen, who suffers from chronic daily headaches, also appeared last week on WBUR’s “The Point”.

Jeff Tweedy hasn’t weighed in yet, but I did see Wilco Tuesday and Wednesday (braving cold and limited views) during the band’s five-night run in Chicago. Yeah, OK, that had nothing to do with women’s health, but I had to boast somewhere.

Debating “Juno”: Will “Juno” win best picture? Stay tuned. In the meantime, young birth mothers discuss what they liked and didn’t like about the film’s portrayal of adoption.

February 20, 2008

Outrage Over FDA Crackdown on Biodentical Hormones? Not So Fast, says National Women’s Health Network

The Washington Post last week reported on an ad campaign protesting the FDA’s crackdown on pharmacies that manufacture and market biodentical hormones to treat symptoms of menopause. Sandra J. Boodman writes:

Last week the HOME (Hands Off My Estrogens!) Coalition, a group based in tiny Edinburg, Va., placed a full-page ad in five newspapers, including USA Today and the Wall Street Journal, accusing regulators of being hostile to “natural” hormonal medicines made according to a doctor’s prescription by a compounding pharmacy.

The ads urge women and their physicians to e-mail the White House and members of Congress asking them to protect patients’ access to medications they claim are “bio-identical” to those found in the body.

Hold the outrage. There is no scientific evidence that bioidentical hormones are safer than conventional hormone therapy drugs — and marketing claims that such drugs can restore youth and prevent or treat serious conditions such as cancer have long irked many in the medical community. As the Post story notes, “A key ingredient in these made-to-order drugs is estriol, a form of estrogen that the coalition claims is safe and protects against breast cancer — but that the FDA says is unapproved.”

Last month, the FDA sent letters to seven pharmacy operations that compound biodentical hormones, warning them that their claims about the safety and effectiveness of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy “are unsupported by medical evidence, and are considered false and misleading.”

While this upset the HOME Coalition, the National Women’s Health Network, along with physician groups such as the Endocrine Society, applauded the enforcement. The NWHN has long been concerned about the oversight of natural hormones — here’s a handy fact sheet on the subject — and two years ago the NWHN petitioned the FDA to stop companies from marketing estrogen-and-testosterone combination pills.

Marian Sadler of the NWHN critiques the Home ad over at Prescription Access Legislation. Sadler writes that the ad attempts to “make you feel that the HOME Coalition is looking out for women’s health and women’s rights, defending natural care from hostile attacks by drug companies and the FDA, and ‘speaking the truth,’” but it’s basically just a sales pitch for natural hormones. She continues:

Like hormones that are synthesized in a lab and sold by drug companies, natural hormones are powerful chemicals that affect many parts of the body. It is very important to understand that products are not necessarily safe just because they’re natural. The same questions we ask about drugs need to be answered for alternative therapies too.

Just as pharmaceutical companies promote drugs, there is a large industry that produces and sells alternative health care products. Whether they are recommended by a doctor, a nurse practitioner, a naturopath or the cashier at the health food store, women should be skeptical of products that claim they will extend life, reverse aging, restore youth or prevent disease without causing any adverse effects.

Plus: The “Our Bodies Ourselves: Menopause” features a section specifically on “Natural Products: Phytoestrogens and Bioidentical Hormones.”

January 13, 2008

Double Dose: A Modest Proposal for Pregnant Teens; C-Section Stats Under Review; Googling Your Health; New Info on Medicare and Health Insurance Coverage

A Modest Proposal: “Pregnant students in a Denver high school are asking for at least four weeks of maternity leave so they can heal, bond with their newborns and not be penalized with unexcused absences,” reports the Denver Post, which notes that Denver Public Schools has no districtwide policy, meaning it’s left up to schools to “to work out plans for students to continue their education.”

What that means is some schools have set a policy whereby girls who don’t show up for school the day after they give birth are charged with unexcused absences. Many of the comments on this story argue against “special treatment.”

Florida Considers Proposal to Teach “Abstinence Plus”: “The bill would still require that schools teach abstinence as ‘the only certain way to avoid pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases,’” reports the AP. “But, the measure would require that starting in the 6th grade, sex education classes provide information about the health benefits and side effects of contraceptives.”

Iowa Gets Funding to Reduce Unintended Pregnancies: Former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack launched a statewide project called “Iowa Initiative to Reduce Unintended Pregnancies” that will focus on women ages 18 to 30. “As a woman, as a teacher, as a mother, I believe we have a responsibility to give all women in our state the knowledge and the means to prevent unintended pregnancies,” she said. From the Des Moines Register:

Half of all pregnancies in Iowa in 2006 were unintended, Vilsack said, citing state Department of Public Health statistics. Of those, 14 percent ended in terminations, she said, citing Iowa Barriers to Prenatal Care Project statistics.

Iowa ranks 48th in the nation in making family planning services available and 39th in its public funding for those efforts. More than half of Iowa’s counties do not have family planning centers, Vilsack said.

C-Section Statistics Under Review: “In 2006, 31.1% of U.S. births were by C-section, a 50% increase over the previous decade,” notes USA Today in a story that examines the debate over safety of elective c-sections.

For more information, check out this earlier post on c-sections and the rise of maternal mortality, as well as Rachel’s post on c-section rates by hospital.

FDA Takes Action on Biodentical Hormones: “The Food and Drug Administration is cracking down on pharmacies that sell customized hormone mixtures as antidotes for menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, saying they are being promoted with false claims about their benefits and contain an ingredient the agency hadn’t approved,” reports the Wall St. Journal.

Here’s more from Well, where an interesting discussion follows, and the FDA press release.

Do You Google Your Health?: Rahul K. Parikh, M.D. doesn’t mind if you do and suggests websites that provide accurate, up-to-date medical information. Don’t forget Rachel’s great post on online health research — it includes questions to ask when evaluating the reliability of websites.

Medicare and Health Insurance Coverage: The Kaiser Family Foundation this week released a new issue brief providing an overview of Medicare’s financing and the fiscal challenges the program faces in the coming decades.

KFF also released two updated fact sheets that provide the most current information and data on health insurance coverage for women ages 18-64. The first, Women’s Health Insurance Coverage, provides new statistics on health coverage, describes the major sources of health insurance, summarizes the major policy challenges facing women in obtaining health coverage, and provides data on the more than 17 million women who are uninsured.

The second fact sheet, Health Insurance Coverage of Women by State, provides state-by-state data on the uninsured rate, as well as rates of private insurance and Medicaid coverage.

June 27, 2007

Good Bones: Prevention and Treatment for All Ages

Our Bodies Ourselves Executive Director Judy Norsigian and Managing Editor Heather Stephenson recently wrote about the potential side effects associated with some medications for post-menopausal osteoporosis, and they offered smart tips to help navigate the pharmaceutical hype.

Writing in the Washington Post, Nancy J. Nelson personalizes the challenge of determining one’s risk for bone fractures and making informed decisions about treatment options:

I share an anxiety with several women friends in their 50s and 60s. We’ve all been told that because our bone mineral density is low — though not low enough to meet the definition of the brittle-bone disease osteoporosis — we need to take medication to reduce our chance of fractures. This means primarily hormones or Fosamax, the top-selling osteoporosis drug, for which doctors wrote more than 20 million prescriptions last year, nearly $2 billion worth. Knowing the associated risks — heart disease, stroke and breast cancer for hormones; ulcers of the esophagus and stomach, and jaw decay for Fosamax — none of us is eager to follow our doctors’ orders. [...]

I also suspect my friends and I are a lot less at risk than someone in my parents’ generation. My mom and three of her pals have all fallen and had fractures; no one I know in my generation has done either.

My search of the scientific literature suggests we are right to be wary of over-medication.

Low bone density is only one of several well-established risk factors for bone fractures. Age and fracture history are just as important, according to Michael R. McClung, director of the Oregon Osteoporosis Center and a member of the council of scientific advisers for the International Osteoporosis Foundation. None of these factors alone is very good at predicting fracture risk. But some doctors don’t appear to have gotten the message.

“Many younger women whose bone density is borderline low are getting treated, although their risk of fracture in the next five to 10 years is fairly low,” said Nelson B. Watts, director of the University of Cincinnati Bone Health and Osteoporosis Center and chairman of the Food and Drug Administration’s Advisory Committee for Endocrine and Metabolic Drugs. “And many patients who have had fractures are not being evaluated or treated, even though their risk of a second fracture in the next five to 10 years is fairly high.”

Nelson reports on a new fracture-risk tool that may be published later this year by the World Health Organization. The tool, which will combine bone density with other risk factors, could end up altering osteoporosis treatment guidelines.

And it’s still important to remember the basics when it comes to good bone health: quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption to two drinks per day, exercising (particularly weight-bearing exercises like running or tennis) and making sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D.

Plus: It’s never too early to start educating girls about good bone health, note Newsweek columnists Barbara Kantrowitz and Pat Wingert:

Getting that message across is the focus of a new public service educational campaign sponsored by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) and the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). The campaign ads feature a young girl with the headline “Almost Past Her Prime.” “This is a prevention campaign,” says Dr. James H. Beaty, AAOS president and a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at the Campbell Clinic in Memphis. “We’re trying to prevent future problems rather than treat them when the kids become adults.”

December 16, 2006

Friday Double Dose on Saturday: Breast Cancer Drop, New Military Health Clinic and Healthiest Places for Women to Live

Breast Cancer Drop Linked to HRT: Rates of the most common form of breast cancer dropped15 percent from August 2002 to December 2003, while rates for all breast cancer dropped by 7 percent, according to researchers. “The reason, they believe, may be because during that time, millions of women abandoned hormone treatment for the symptoms of menopause after a large national study concluded that the hormones slightly increased breast cancer risk,” reports The New York Times.

See also: the National Cancer Institute website about menopausal hormone use and the Women’s Health Initiative study, which included nearly 17,000 women. It was halted prematurely when slight increases in breast cancer, heart attacks, blood clots and strokes were discovered.

Replacing One Male-Dominated Culture With Another: “The United States military has long prided itself on molding raw recruits into hardened soldiers. Perhaps none have undergone a transformation quite like that of Ms. Hamdan,” writes Andrea Elliott in The New York Times. Fadwa Hamdan’s story is nothing short of remarkable:

Forbidden by her husband to work, she raised five children behind the drawn curtains of their home in Saudi Arabia. She was not allowed to drive. On the rare occasions when she set foot outside, she wore a full-face veil.

Then her world unraveled. Separated from her husband, who had taken a second wife, and torn from her children, she moved to Queens to start over. Struggling to survive on her own, she answered a recruiting advertisement for the Army and enlisted in May.

Ms. Hamdan’s passage through the military is a remarkable act of reinvention. It required courage and sacrifice. She had to remove her hijab, a sacred symbol of the faith she holds deeply. She had to embrace, at the age of 39, an arduous and unfamiliar life.

Continue reading the story here.

Military Opens Women’s Health Clinic: The U.S. military has opened a new women’s health clinic on a military site in Germany, and it’s the first of its kind, reports Stars & Stripes.

“Although women’s health clinics are fairly common at civilian hospitals, the concept is relatively new in the military,” writes Scott Schonauer. “The new building will have nine exam rooms decorated with the type of color and style not often seen at most drab hospital wards. Exam tables will an extra feature: They’ll be heated. The center also will include a sex-assault suite that will offer 24-hour care for victims. The room will be stocked with testing kits and provide a more comfortable alternative to going to the emergency room.”

Still, U.S. law prohibits military facilities from performing abortions, even when privately funded to avoid using taxpayer funds. Such regulations put the health of women serving overseas at risk every day.

Hospitals in Violation: “Some Massachusetts facilities violate the year-old state law requiring hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims by imposing “serious restrictions” on the treatment, according to a survey by NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts,” reports the Boston Globe. According to the survey, “officials at 7 percent of the hospitals with emergency rooms contend the provision for emergency contraception may be left to the doctor’s discretion. Another 7 percent indicated that such provisions were contingent upon the woman undergoing a rape exam.”

Male Circumcision Cuts HIV Transmission: News that men who are circumcised are about 50 percent less likely to contract HIV, based on studies in Uganda and Kenya, sparked this response from Broadsheet’s Tracy Clark-Flory, who looks at arguments for and against circumcision. See also Carol Lloyd’s post on female infanticide in India.

The Skinny on Thin: Jessica Clark of In These Times on “Thin,” a documentary by Lauren Greenfield about patients at a residential center for eating disorders. “[The recovery] process can be circuitous and frustrating, with many false starts,” writes Clark. “Anorexia is the most deadly mental disorder; up to 20 percent of sufferers die from related complications. Some even court it: ‘I just want to be thin,’ says Alisa ‘If it takes dying to get there, so be it.’”

Suspected Prostitutes Paraded Through City Streets in China: “For people who saw the event on television earlier this month, the scene was like a chilling blast from a past that is 30 years distant: social outcasts and supposed criminals — in this case 100 or so prostitutes and a few pimps — paraded in front of a jeering crowd, their names revealed, and then driven away to jail without trial,” reports The New York Times. But the public effect wasn’t what officials hoped for, and an “angry nationwide backlash” has ensued.

Healthiest Places for Women: What do Honolulu, Portland, Maine; Nassau-Suffolk counties in New York; Orange County, Calif.; and Burlington, Vt. have in common? They’re the healthiest cities for women, according to Self magazine. Honolulu came in at no. 1. (Having lived in Burlington, I’m up for a site-test challenge.)

October 11, 2006

A Quiz from Our Bodies Ourselves

If you’re procrastinating working by blog surfing, stay an extra minute and test your menopause knowledge … Answers follow below, but no cheating!

September 18, 2006

Popular Drug to Treat Menopause Symptoms Lacks Approval

“In the first half of 2006, women in the USA spent nearly $90 million on unapproved estrogen-plus-testosterone pills, says IMS Health, a pharmaceutical information company. Estratest, made by Solvay Pharmaceuticals, represented 75% of the market,” writes Rita Rubin in USA Today.

Would it surprise you to learn that Estratest, a combination of estrogen and testosterone, has never received FDA approval?

Last month, the National Women’s Health Network petitioned the FDA to stop marketing estrogen-and-testosterone combination pills such as Estratest and Syntest (a generic version of the same drug). From the NWHN’s Aug. 28 health alert:

Both products carry a label indicating that they should be used for treatment of moderate to severe vasomotor symptoms, such as hot flashes, that don’t respond to estrogen alone. But the NWHN has filed a citizen’s petition with the FDA demanding that it stop the manufacturers from marketing these products due to lack of evidence of effectiveness and concerns about serious health risks to women.

“This is an outrageous example of drug companies manipulating the FDA regulatory process for their own benefit at the expense of women’s health,” says Cynthia Pearson, NWHN Executive Director. “The FDA determined several years ago that there’s no evidence that combination estrogen/testosterone products are effective for this use, yet Estratest still remains on the market years later.”

[...] The NWHN is not just concerned about the use of a product that hasn’t been proven to work; it also points out that there’s evidence that estrogen/testosterone combinations may pose a serious threat to women’s health. Recent findings from the Nurses’ Health Study show that Estratest significantly increases a woman’s risk for invasive breast cancer. [1] In addition, there are other serious health risks associated with testosterone use by women, and an FDA advisory committee recommended against approval of a testosterone product for women in 2004 due in part to concerns about the safety of long-term exposure to testosterone.

The NWNH’s citizen petition on Estratest and Syntest is available here (PDF). The footnote cited above refers to a study published in July in the Archives of Internal Medicine: Combined Estrogen and Testosterone Use and Risk of Breast Cancer in Postmenopausal Women.

According to USA Today, Solvay spokesman Neil Hirsch sent an e-mail to the newspaper in which he stated the company “stands behind the safety and efficacy of Estratest brand products. After more than 40 years of patient use and 39-plus million prescriptions written for the product, Estratest continues to serve as an important therapeutic alternative.”

Rubin adds, “Yet, in April 2003, the FDA stated in the Federal Register that it no longer believed there was ‘substantial evidence’ of the hormone combination’s effectiveness. The FDA invited manufacturers to ask for a hearing if they disagreed. Solvay and Breckenridge, maker of Syntest, quickly did so. The hearing has yet to be held, so the makers can keep selling their products.”