Written by Michelle Alford for Scars1
Lauren Streicher, M.D., is an Associate Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University’s medical school, The Feinberg School of Medicine, and is the founder of Gynecologic Specialists of Northwestern, SC. She is a Fellow in the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a Diplomat of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a member of the Association for Gynecologic Laparoscopy, the American Association of Gynecologic Laparoscopic Surgeons and a Certified Menopause Practitioner of The North American Menopause Society.
In addition to her academic and clinical responsibilities, Dr. Streicher devotes her time to providing evidence-based, up-to-date information to women through consumer publications and media appearances. She is currently appearing weekly on ABC’s Windy City Live! and is a recurrent guest on shows such as The Dr. Oz Show, The Steve Harvey Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show and Good Morning America-Health. Dr. Streicher has had over 1000 appearances on local and national news regarding all aspects of women’s health care including The McNeil Lehrer Hour, ABC News Now, 20/20, World News Tonight. ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, WGN, the Baby Channel, and Lifetime TV. She hosted The Answered Patient Series and Advances in Women’s Health, on Reach MD XM 24, the station for medical professionals.
Castle Connolly and Chicago Magazine have consistently recognized her as one of the “Top Doctors” in Chicago and she was featured in an article in Chicago Magazine’s Top Doc issue. She was recently designated as one of the 100 Women of Influence by Today’s Chicago Women magazine. Her book, The Essential Guide to Hysterectomy, was published in 2004 and the second edition released in 2013. Her next book, a comprehensive guide to sexual health, Love Sex Again: A Gynecologist Finally Fixes the Medical Problems That Are Sabotaging Your Sex Life will be released next month.
Dr. Streicher’s involvement in reproductive and health issues influenced her choice to become a gynecologist. “It just seemed like the right choice for me,” she told us. “I also liked surgery and liked the idea of doing surgery on someone I know. Most surgeons operate on people they don’t know, but when women have gynecological surgery, they usually go to someone they’ve seen for a long time.”
Symptoms of uterine fibroids are often overlooked by patients. “Many women don’t realize that heavy bleeding, protruded belly, and pressure on the bladder are often symptoms of fibroids,” Dr. Streicher explained. “It’s not normal to have heavy bleeding. If a woman has one heavy period, that’s not a reason to be concerned, but if they’re consistently heavy and getting heavier, then she should see a gynecologist.”
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- How often do you treat fibroids?
- How often are you in an operating room?
- Is this something you do a lot of?
Fibroid treatments vary significantly from patient to patient. “Back in the forties, it used to be that everyone had a hysterectomy, and that isn’t always the best choice or the right choice,” Dr. Streicher said. “A thirty-year-old woman who hasn’t had children has different options than someone who is older and doesn’t intend to have any more children. This is why I wrote my book, The Essential Guide to Hysterectomy, because it’s not a simple solution. A true consultation with a woman with fibroids would take an hour to an hour and a half to really evaluate her situation, and no doctor can spend that much time with every patient. This way, women can read the book and have a better idea of the possible treatments before they go talk to their doctors and the conversation can be much more focused. There are many options and patients should get to make that decision.”
Hysterectomy is the best choice for women who are not interested in childbearing and are looking for one definitive procedure. “Some people are willing to have many smaller procedures until menopause naturally removes symptoms, but others don’t want to come in multiple times. They just want to be done with it, and if they don’t want to get pregnant, they can be.”
Women who want to get pregnant have many options before getting a hysterectomy. “The first thing a woman who wants to have a baby needs to decide is whether or not she even needs to be treated. Depending on the location of the fibroid, some women may not need immediate treatment,” said Dr. Streicher. “Often women can get pregnant without removing the fibroid. If the fibroid will impact her ability to get pregnant, then we’ll consider a myomectomy, which is a type of surgery that can remove the fibroid without permanently damaging the uterus.”
The most important step for women with fibroids to take is to find the right doctor. According to Dr. Streicher, “A lot of women are not given appropriate choices because their doctor isn’t a true expert in fibroids, doesn’t know all of the choices, or isn’t able to do multiple types of treatments. The person who does your Pap smear might be an expert, but they also might not be.”
There are many steps you can take to make sure your doctor is the right choice. “The first step is checking what kind of doctor he or she is. Your doctor should be a board certified gynecologist, not an internist or obstetrician. If most of the people in the waiting room are pregnant, then the doctor probably isn’t used to treating women with fibroids. You can also ask the doctor questions such as, ‘How often do you treat fibroids’, ‘How often are you in an operating room?’, or ‘Is this something you do a lot of?’ Other options are to go to a large teaching hospital to use a physician referral service or to go to a professional organization, such as the AAGL, and ask them to refer you to someone who is an expert in fibroids surgery. You shouldn’t trust any website that the doctor has input in. These aren’t guaranteed to give you accurate information.”
Dr. Streicher advises patients to seek treatment as early as possible. “A lot of woman put off treatment because they think their only option is a hysterectomy, but they have many other options,” she said. “It’s not normal to bleed heavily; it’s not normal to have your belly stick out; it’s not normal to have pressure on your bladder all the time. If you’re having symptoms, it’s better to see an expert sooner rather than later.”
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