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Breakthroughs in Women’s Health

As the medical community has belatedly acknowledged, women experience many diseases differently than men—and they are more prone to a number of ailments. Fortunately, Chicago today stands at the epicenter of women’s health research. In the following pages, we examine the latest developments on a wide range of medical fronts that have particular urgency for women

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CERVICAL AND ENDOMETRIAL CANCER

Each year, about 12,000 American women get cervical cancer—a small-sounding number that nevertheless frustrates doctors. After all, most women can avoid getting the disease—caused by the sexually transmitted humanpapilloma virus (HPV)—if they practice safe sex and get the HPV vaccine. Yet nationwide, only about 25 percent of 9- to 26-year-olds—the recommended age group—even start getting the three doses of the vaccine.

Doctors can catch most cervical abnormalities before they progress to cancer if their patients get regular Pap smears. Enter Dr. Yvonne Collins, a gynecologic oncologist at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. “I don’t think we stress enough early detection and prevention,” says Collins, who researches prevention and treatment of gynecologic cancers. In 2010, she and the actress Mandy Moore did a media tour sponsored by the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation to raise awareness of cervical cancer.

Collins would like to get funding for free HPV vaccines since the full course of immunization now costs more than $360 for adult women. Advocate is still signing up patients for several studies that look at cervical, endometrial, and ovarian cancers. Among other things, Collins and her colleagues are looking at genetic markers to help them figure out which endometrial cancer patients fare better with different treatments, as well as determining which drugs are most effective and least toxic. In the meantime, to get out the word about the HPV vaccine and Pap smears, Collins continues to show up at beauty shops, churches, and schools—“wherever anybody will listen,” she says.

HEART DISEASE | FERTILITY | PREGNANCY | BREAST AND OVARIAN CANCER
CERVICAL AND ENDOMETRIAL CANCER | OSTEOPOROSIS
HEADACHES, MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS, AND OTHER NEUROLOGIC DISORDERS | DEPRESSION
EATING DISORDERS | INCONTINENCE | IMMUNE DISORDERS | SLEEP DISORDERS

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