Women’s Health Issues and Dangerous Products

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    Women have a unique set of health challenges that are influenced in large part by the hormone changes that occur throughout their lives. The reproductive cycle can take a toll on a woman’s body, even if she never has children. Women have longer lifespans, stronger immune systems, and better trauma survival rates than men. They are also more likely to visit their doctors and participate in preventive health screenings. Yet they spend 15% of their lives in poor health, compared with just 12% for men, and they are more likely to be diagnosed with many chronic health conditions. While women’s proactive approach to healthcare is wise, it does not always work in their favor. Pharmaceutical companies have a history of pushing products for women that are not safe or effective and failing to provide the proper warnings about potential risks. Additionally, clinical drug trials are often performed with only male participants, resulting in overmedicating and adverse reactions in women.

    Women and Cancer

    Cancer was the second-leading cause of death among adults in the United States in 2020, leading to 284,619 female deaths. The American Cancer Society estimates that 934,870 females will be diagnosed with cancer in 2022.

    Breast Cancer

    Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among American women, accounting for 30% of new cancer diagnoses in women. Approximately 1 in 8 women develops invasive breast cancer over the course of a lifetime. If the current trend continues, 287,850 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 43,250 deaths are expected in 2022.

    Breast cancer risk factors:

    Breast cancer tends to spread to the lymph nodes and then to other parts of the body. This makes early detection an important factor in the prognosis. During the early stages of cancer, tumors are small, and cancer is confined to the breast tissue and nearby lymph nodes.

    During the later stages, tumors get larger and spread to an increasing number of lymph nodes and ultimately to other organs.

    The earlier the stage of cancer at the time of diagnosis, the higher the survival rate. Stage 0 cancer (precancer) and stage 1 cancer have 100 percent five-year survival rates. The survival rate for stage two cancer is 93 percent, but it drops to 72 percent for stage 3 and just 22 percent for stage four.

    Tamoxifen

    Most breast cancer cells have hormone receptors for estrogen or progesterone. These hormone-positive cancers begin in the milk ducts or lobules.
    Tamoxifen is a drug used to prevent or treat estrogen-positive breast cancer by blocking estrogen production. It can be prescribed to postmenopausal women and premenopausal women over age 35.

    Side effects include the following:
    Tamoxifen is not without risks:
    Other widely used breast cancer drugs include:

    Ovarian Cancer

    Ovarian cancer is the deadliest reproductive cancer in women. It impacts one in 78 women. The National Cancer Society estimates that 19,880 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2022, and 12,810 will die.

    When ovarian cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, the five-year survival rate is 94%. Unfortunately, only 20% of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed early. Women rarely experience symptoms during the early stages, and there are no reliable early screening tests.

    Talcum Powder Linked to Ovarian Cancer

    Many cases of ovarian cancer can be attributed to asbestos exposure through contaminated talcum powder. Talcum powder was the main ingredient in Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower. Johnson & Johnson advertised these products as feminine hygiene products.
    Talcum powder is made from talc, a mineral often found in close proximity to asbestos. This means the risk of contamination is common. When Johnson & Johnson discovered their products were contaminated, they concealed the information and continued promoting them.


    Studies have found a direct link between these products and ovarian cancer, even when they were not used for feminine hygiene. Johnson & Johnson has paid billions of dollars in thousands of lawsuits and no longer offers talc-based products in the United States.

    Cervical Cancer

    Cervical cancer was once the most common cancer death in women, but thanks to the widespread availability of early screening, it is almost always caught during the pre-cancer stage. The American Cancer Society anticipates 14,100 new cases and 4,280 deaths from cervical cancer in the United States in 2022.


    The most significant risk factors include:

    HPV

    Human papillomaviruses are a group of viruses, most of which cause warts or non-cancerous tumors (papillomas). These affect the mucous membranes, especially around the vagina, anus, cervix, vulva, inner nose, mouth, throat, trachea, and inner eyelids.

    It spreads by physical contact with the affected area, especially sexual contact. High-risk types of HPV can cause cervical cancer. Although less common, cancers of the throat, vulva, vagina, mouth, and throat may be attributable to HPV. The Gardasil 9 vaccine can prevent HPV when administered early in life, either as a series of two injections in children ages nine to 12 or as a series of three injections in young adults ages 13 to 25. The vaccine is most effective when administered at a young age. It is not recommended for adults over the age of 26.

    Early Detection

    Regular health screenings can detect cervical cancer and HPV. Women over the age of 21 should schedule PAP smears and HPV tests periodically as recommended by their physicians. These tests are usually necessary only once every three to five years.

    Other Types of Cancers

    Cancers Caused by Zantac
    Ranitidine, sold under the brand Zantac, was a widely used antacid that was contaminated with N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), a known carcinogen. Consequently, it has been linked to gastrointestinal cancers, including cancers of the following:
    Lung Cancer
    Previously thought of as a man’s disease, the incidence of lung cancer in women is rising at an alarming rate, with an 84% increase among women over the last 42 years. Smoking is the most significant factor, but 20% of women diagnosed with lung cancer have no smoking history. There are no behavioral explanations for the increase in lung cancer in women. Exposure to the following substances has been linked to a higher risk of lung cancer:

    Family history is also a significant risk factor for lung cancer.

    Reproductive Health

    Women face many decisions regarding their reproductive health, from contraception to hormone management. Too often, women are deprived of the information they need to make informed choices. Thus, they ultimately sacrifice their health to prevent unwanted pregnancies and treat reproductive issues.

    Birth Control

    Although condoms offer a safe, effective method of contraception while also protecting against sexually transmitted infections, many women prefer alternative methods. Most of these require women to assume associated health risks. Unfortunately, pharmaceutical companies have not always been transparent about these risks.
    Oral contraceptives
    Yaz and Yasmin
    What is it?
    Ortho-Evra
    What is it?
    Intrauterine Device (IUD)
    What is it?
    NuvaRing
    What is it?
    Depo Provera
    What is it?

    Endometriosis

    Endometriosis occurs when tissue that is similar to the lining of the uterus, the endometrium, grows outside the uterus.


    This tissue may grow on the ovaries or fallopian tubes, and, less commonly, in the vagina, bowel, bladder, or rectum. Rarely, growths may also appear in other parts of the body, including the lungs, brain, and skin.


    Although the growth is non-cancerous, it can cause severe symptoms, including pain, inappropriate menstrual bleeding, digestive issues, and infertility.

    No one knows what causes endometriosis, but links with the following events have been established:
    There is no cure for endometriosis, but it can be controlled in some cases with hormonal contraceptives, including oral contraceptives and IUDs.

    Pregnancy

    Women’s bodies change significantly during pregnancy to accommodate the needs of both the mother and the growing fetus. Hormone levels fluctuate in the mother while the fetus receives nourishment from the mother’s blood supply via the placenta. During this time, common medications can cause miscarriages and birth defects.
    The following medications have been shown to cause miscarriages:
    The following medications are known to cause birth defects:

    Women who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant should check with their doctors prior to starting any new medication, vitamin, or herbal therapies.

    Breastfeeding

    While breastfeeding is widely regarded as the healthiest feeding system for infants, it is contraindicated in some circumstances:

    Breastfeeding mothers can take most medications without adverse effects. Medications can end up in breastmilk, some in larger concentrations than others. In many cases, the impacts of medications are still unknown.
    The following medications could reach the breastmilk in higher concentrations or otherwise cause harm to the infant:

    Mental Health

    Women are nearly twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with anxiety and depressive disorders.

    Depression

    Common medications:
    Contributing Factors
    Puberty
    Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
    Pregnancy
    Postpartum depression
    Menopause
    Life circumstances and culture

    Anxiety

    Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

    The pelvic floor muscles support the internal organs. These muscles can weaken due to childbirth, age, menopause, chronic coughing, nerve injuries to the lower back, and obesity.

    Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP)

    Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when the bladder or uterus drops into the vagina due to the weakening of the pelvic floor muscles. Some cases of POP can also involve the rectum. It affects 3% of women in the United States.

    Treatment options include the following:

    Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI)

    Stress Urinary Incontinence occurs when urine leaks during activities that place sudden stress on the bladder and urethra. This causes the muscles to open slightly, allowing the leakage. In mild cases, activities like sneezing, jumping, exercising, and coughing can trigger a leak. In severe cases, merely standing up can trigger leaks.
    SUI is caused by a weakening or stretching of the pelvic floor muscles. Treatment options include:

    Complications from Transvaginal Mesh

    Surgical mesh is a net-like material that has been used in the treatment of abdominal hernias since the 1950s. It can also be used in heart stents. During the 1970s, gynecologists began using it to treat pelvic floor disorders, including POP and SUI, by implanting it through abdominal surgery.


    In the 1990s, practitioners developed a less invasive approach of insertion through a small incision in the vagina. Mesh implanted in this manner is known as transvaginal mesh, a method that received FDA approval in 2002.


    Implanting transvaginal mesh requires specialized surgical skill, but the product was marketed heavily to gynecologists who may have lacked these skills. While mesh inserted surgically through the abdomen has not resulted in widespread complications, transvaginal mesh has caused the following:

    Surgery is urgently needed for these complications. It requires even more specialized skill because often the vaginal tissue has grown into the mesh, and the separation process is delicate and complex.


    The FDA recalled transvaginal mesh in 2019. The FDA estimates over 300,000 women were implanted with vaginal mesh. Over 650 lawsuits are pending.


    Surgical mesh implanted through the abdomen and mid-urethral slings are considered safe and are not part of the recall or the litigation.

    Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

    Urinary tract infections are infections of any of the urinary system organs, which include the bladder, urethra, and kidneys. Most infections involve the bladder and urethra. UTIs are more common in women than in men.

    UTI Symptoms
    Symptoms of kidney infections are more serious and include:

    Causes and Risk Factors

    UTIs are most commonly caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract. Women experience a higher risk due to the close proximity of the bladder and urethra to the anus and vagina. Bacteria from sexual contact, the gastrointestinal tract, or sexually transmitted infections can enter the urethra and cause infections.


    Hormonal changes during menopause and birth control methods involving diaphragms and spermicides also increase women’s risk of developing UTIs. Other risk factors include catheter use, diabetes, and urinary tract abnormalities.


    Urinary tract infections may not cause the same symptoms in elderly adults and can be difficult to identify. For example, mental confusion that mimics dementia is a common UTI symptom in elderly adults.

    Treatment

    Urinary tract infections are typically treated with antibiotics. Resistant infections may require intravenous antibiotic therapy in the hospital.

    Untreated UTIs can lead to more serious conditions:

    Elmiron

    Elmiron is a drug used to treat cystitis, a condition characterized by bladder pain and inflammation. This product can cause the following conditions:

    Pigmentary Maculopathy

    The active ingredient in Elmiron, pentosan polysulfate sodium (PPS) is the only known cause of pigmentary maculopathy, the symptoms of which include dark spots in the vision field, difficulty reading or adjusting to dim lighting, loss of color perception, eye strain, blurred vision and blindness.
    The condition is often misdiagnosed as age-related macular degeneration or pattern dystrophy.


    More than 600 Elmiron lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals are pending amid allegations that Johnson & Johnson knew soon after releasing the product in 1996 that it could be linked to eye damage.


    Johnson & Johnson ignored the evidence. In 2018, the link was established through clinical studies, but Johnson & Johnson did not provide warnings until 2020.

    Menopause

    When estrogen—which has a protective effect on women’s health declines, women more vulnerable to age-related illnesses and events such as heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, and osteoporosis.

    Menopause is a normal part of aging that women experience during their mid-forties into their fifties. It marks the end of the female reproductive cycle. During this time, estrogen declines and periods cease.

    The transitional period leading up to menopause is perimenopause. Women often experience the following uncomfortable symptoms during perimenopause and menopause:

    Osteoporosis

    Osteoporosis is characterized by bone loss. It is more common in women. Approximately 10% of women over the age of 60 are afflicted. Osteoporosis increases the risk of bone fractures, including hip fractures, reduced mobility, quality of life, and lifespan. Additional symptoms include the following:

    Osteoporosis is often treated with calcium and Vitamin D supplementation. A class of drugs known as bisphosphonates, such as Fosamax, is also an effective treatment for this condition.

    Other risk factors for osteoporosis include:

    Fosamax Side Effects

    The body is constantly in a state of breaking down old bone and replacing it with new bones. Fosamax is a bisphosphonate, which works by slowing down the body’s natural process of breaking down bone.

    The most common side effect is heartburn or similar gastrointestinal issues. Replacing one bisphosphonate with another often remedies this issue.

    Approximately one in 50,000 patients taking Fosamax develops osteonecrosis of the jawbone, a condition characterized by a deteriorating jawbone.

    Patients with a history of cancer have the highest risk of developing this side effect. Femur fractures are another rare side effect.

    Many physicians recommend a two-year break after taking Fosamax for the first three years to reduce these risks.

    Alzheimer’s

    Alzheimer’s is a deadly degenerative disease that impacts memory and cognitive function. It is most common in adults older than 65 and women. As many as two-thirds of Alzheimer’s cases are in women.

    While no one knows the reasons for this, researchers point to the following characteristics of women as potential factors:

    The most common early symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty remembering newly learned information. It is a progressive condition characterized by increasing symptoms of dementia until patients can no longer carry conversations, recognize loved ones or care for themselves. It is one of many types of dementias that affect older adults.

    There is no cure for Alzheimer’s. Treatment is normally focused on slowing its progression. One promising new drug, Aducanumab, is showing promise.

    The underlying issue behind Alzheimer’s disease is the buildup of amyloid plaques in the brain. Removing these plaques can reduce the cognitive and functional decline in Alzheimer’s patients.

    This drug received accelerated approval by the FDA and is the first approved drug that addresses amyloid plaques.

    Cardiovascular Disease

    The decline in estrogen puts postmenopausal women most at risk for cardiovascular diseases. Women are also more likely to die from heart attacks because they often experience atypical symptoms when a heart attack strikes.

    Heart Disease

    One out of four women will die of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Because women’s symptoms are not always obvious, they are not as often diagnosed early. Symptoms of heart disease in women include:
    Risk factors for women range from family history of heart disease to menopause. Interestingly, the risk for developing heart disease is greater for women who smoke than for men who smoke.
    Other risk factors for women include:
    Women are more likely than men to have a heart attack without a severe blockage (nonobstructive coronary artery disease)

    Stroke

    A stroke occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is blocked, blood vessel in the brain bursts.

    3rd

    leading cause of death among women
    Kills twice as many women as breast cancer

    Ischemic

    clot obstructs blood flow

    Hemorrhagic stroke

    blood vessel ruptures and prevents blood flow to the brain

    Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) or “mini-stroke”

    caused by a temporary clot
    Risk factors – High blood pressure

    Long-term effects

    Paralysis on one side of the body
    Vision issues
    Memory loss
    Speech and language difficulties
    Treatment
    Health Tips for Women
    Women have more opportunities today than ever before to support and protect their health and longevity. The following practices will promote a long, healthy, and happy life.
    Be your own health advocate.
    Listen to your body.
    Make sure your doctor listens to you.
    Ask plenty of questions until you are satisfied.
    Enlist support from friends, families, and groups.
    Moderate coffee and caffeine consumption.
    Exercise regularly.
    Maintain social connections.
    Quit smoking.
    Take your vitamins, especially vitamin D and calcium.
    Consume a healthy diet.
    Maintain healthy sleep hygiene.
    Be proactive.

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