Actress Lena Dunham says that in recent months she underwent a total hysterectomy in an attempt to finally end her years-long battle with chronic pain stemming from endometriosis.
A total hysterectomy involves the surgical removal of a woman’s cervix and uterus.
In an essay featured in the March 2018 issue of Vogue, Lena reveals that, after the procedure, she awoke to learn her reproductive organs were even more mangled than she had known. “In addition to endometrial disease,” wrote Lena, 31, “an odd hump-like protrusion and a septum running down the middle, I have retrograde bleeding, a.k.a. my period running in reverse so that my stomach is full of blood. My ovary has settled in on the muscles around the sacral nerves in my back that allow us to walk. Let’s please not even talk about my uterine lining. The only beautiful detail is that the organ—which is meant to be shaped like a light bulb—was shaped like a heart.”
Lena says her decision to undergo the elective surgery was a tough one, following “years of complex surgeries measuring in the double digits” and even alternative treatments like “pelvic floor therapy, massage therapy, pain therapy, color therapy, acupuncture,” and yoga.
Lena has been hospitalized at least three times in less than a year for endometriosis. Last April, she underwent surgery to free her ovaries from her rectal wall. Afterward, Lena declared she was endometriosis-free. But, sadly, on May 1, during her appearance at the Met Gala in NYC, she was rushed to a local hospital for complications. Days later, Lena canceled her nationwide “Lenny IRL” tour, telling fans that she was, “in the greatest amount of physical pain that I have ever experienced” after doctors discovered more endometriosis during subsequent surgery.
With her hysterectomy now behind her, hopefully, the worst is over for Lena. The former Girls star recently announced that she’d return to HBO with a new series, Camping. But perhaps she’ll soon share even happier news: Lena reveals she’s determined to have children and is already exploring her options.
“I may have felt choiceless before, but I know I have choices now,” she writes. “Soon I’ll start exploring whether my ovaries, which remain someplace inside me in that vast cavern of organs and scar tissue, have eggs. Adoption is a thrilling truth I’ll pursue with all my might.”
The conference was followed online by more than 5,000 people
The Endometriosis Foundation of America (EFA)’s 2017 Medical Conference was held in New York City on October 28. The conference titled “Breast, Ovary, and Endometriosis” was attended by more than 100 people and viewed online by more than 5.300.
Following the welcome address by Dr. Tamer Seckin, the co-founder of the EFA, the conference started with the presentation of Dr. Harry Reich, a pioneer in the field of laparoscopic surgery. During his presentation titled “Endometriosis, hormonal or surgical? My reality”, Dr. Reich explained how he thinks endometriosis is not caused by retrograde menstruation, that it is a condition present from birth, and that it needs to be diagnosed by hand. Dr. Reich also added that he believes the medical treatment of endometriosis “never works”, that hysterectomy is a poor choice, and that laparoscopy is “the way to go”.
The rest of the conference proceeded in six consecutive parts where the disease was tackled from different angles.
In the first part, three eminent scientists shared their views about the role of estrogen in inflammation and cancer. Dr. Robert Taylor talked about the sensitivity of endometrial lesions to female sex hormones and cell singling molecules such as NF-kB and how this knowledge could be used to develop potential new treatments for the condition.
This was followed by an excellent talk by Dr. Marisa Weiss, the chief medical officer and founder of breascancer.org. Dr. Weiss explained why breast cancer is the most common type of cancer today, how women’s modern lifestyle increases their risk of developing breast cancer, and how this risk could be lowered by making changes to their lifestyle.
The third presentation was by Dr. Stephanie Bernik from Lenox Hill Hospital about the importance of early diagnosis in young women for a timely intervention to treat breast cancer.
The second part of the conference focused on stem cells and their therapeutic potential in endometriosis and cancer. The keynote presentation was by Dr. Serdar Bulun, the chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University. Dr. Bulun explained how a woman’s body did not catch up with her recent lifestyle choices and how the suppression of ovulation could decrease the risk of endometriosis as well as ovarian and breast cancer.
In the third part of the conference, Dr. İe-Ming Shih talked about the link between endometriosis and cancer and how genetic mutations found in endometrial lesions coupled with sex hormones could be linked to cancer. The second speaker of this session, Dr. Sarah Berga of Wake Forest School of Medicine talked about the effect of sex hormone on the brain.
The conference also included a section on research funding where Dr. Lisa Halvorson from the National Institute of Health (NIH) talked about the present and future of NIH funding focusing on gynecologic research, while Dr. Serin Seckin gave an overview of the projects funded by the EFA.
The penultimate section of the conference titled “The endpoint: Prevention for Cure” featured two very interesting presentations on plastic and gynecologic surgery for breast and ovarian cancer.
The conference concluded with a session on fertility. Dr. Kutluk Oktay talked about fertility preservation in women with mutations in genes known to be associated with breast cancer. Finally, Dr. Norbert Gleicher talked about the limitations of pre-implantation genetic testing in IVF treatments and how a large number of women may be given the wrong advice about their chance of becoming pregnant.
EFA’s next meeting will be held in New York City on March 9-11, 2018.
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