Health Notes: Post-Menopause
By Erinn Olivier
Ask any woman about menopause and she might say that the one thing she is looking forward to is not ever having a period again. That is just what I want to talk about in this health note.
The average age of menopause is fifty years old give or take a few years. It is important to know that the formal definition of menopause is the absence of monthly periods for a total of twelve months straight. This is normally a transition over a few years for most women. There may be several months where she has no period then has one or two again. In this case you would usually start the twelve month count over. Also during this transition a woman may start to have hot flashes, night sweats and irritability among other things.
The main message that I wanted to get across to women in Acadiana is that once you go through Menopause you should not see any more bleeding...period! Post-Menopausal Bleeding is a formal diagnosis and an urgent issue. It should always be evaluated from a Gynecological standpoint as it can be an early sign of abnormalities in the uterus or even Endometrial (Uterine) Cancer.
Risk factors for Endometrial Cancer include obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, family members diagnosed with colon cancer at a young age, and having very irregular periods over many years. Currently, most Endometrial Cancers (72%) are diagnosed while in stage I; however, a significant number are in stage II (12%), stage III (13%), or stage IV (3%). Despite this early stage of diagnosis, Endometrial Cancer is responsible for about 7,310 deaths each year, making it the eighth leading site of cancer-related death among women in America. Most women who develop Endometrial Cancer experience spotting, bleeding, or abnormal discharge after Menopause which brings them into the doctor’s office early on in the disease which can provide the opportunity for early treatment and a good prognosis.
In rare, severe cases Endometrial Cancer can present itself earlier in a woman’s forties as very heavy, excessive prolonged bleeding. This is why women with abnormal menstrual patterns should seek diagnosis and treatment.
All I can say is spread the word. Tell your mother, your grandmother, your aunts. If you help with their laundry and notice something, speak up and ask, don’t just ignore it because she may already be doing just that.