ovarian cancer screening

A groundbreaking ovarian cancer drug has been approved for inclusion for the first time on the NHS Cancer Drugs Fund. According to experts, this new drug could be a game changer for thousands of women in the future.

Not only could the drug prevent ovarian cancer from developing further, but it can also prolong life for those who experience a return of the disease. Here, we’ll look at why this new drug is an exciting development in the treatment against ovarian cancer. You’ll also discover how to protect yourself and identify the signs early on.

What is the new drug?

The new drug, known as niraparib, is a pill treatment designed to help women with fallopian tube, primary peritoneal and ovarian cancers. Prior to be accepting onto the NHS, it has undergone numerous clinical trials.

Results of these trials have proven that niraparib can delay cancer growth by as much as 15.5 months. Patients are required to take the pills just once each day and it’s said to work by inhibiting the two proteins which as ultimately responsible for repairing DNA to restrict cancer growth. As of yet, there is no conclusive data to show the drug’s overall survival rate, but evidence does show it can certainly prolong life.

The potential to benefit thousands of women

As it stands, the drug will be available to up to 850 women each year. This means, that thousands of women could benefit in the long-term.

Previous treatments which have recently been provided, have focused solely on women who meet very specific criteria. This new drug however, is approved for a much wider patient group.

Why early ovarian cancer detection is crucial

The reason this new drug has caused excitement within the industry is because ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest to affect women. It’s even been dubbed ‘a silent killer’, as by the time its symptoms start to show, the cancer has often already developed into its later stages. This makes it incredibly difficult to treat.

It is estimated that approximately 7,400 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year in the UK. Out of these, 4,128 women die from the condition. It’s also known that up to a staggering 85% of women who have had ovarian cancer, experience a reoccurrence of the disease.

It is a very difficult type of cancer to treat, but the odds of survival are much higher if it is caught early. This is why ovarian cancer screening can prove invaluable.

What is ovarian cancer screening?

Many women rely upon their regular pelvic exam at the doctors to determine the health of their ovaries. However, ovarian tumours which are in their early stages can be extremely difficult to detect through a pelvic exam alone. This is why ovarian cancer screening is often recommended.

The screening includes a TVUS, or Transvaginal ultrasound, along with a CA-125 blood test. The ultrasound delves into the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes, checking for any masses. Although it can detect a mass, it cannot determine whether that mass is cancerous. The majority of masses found on ultrasound screening do turn out to be non-cancerous. The blood test measures the level of the CA-125 protein as women who have ovarian cancer tend to have much higher CA-125 levels.

While this new drug is great news for women suffering from ovarian cancer, it does highlight the importance of detecting the condition early. Having regular ovarian cancer screening tests will ensure any changes are picked up quickly, increasing your chances of survival.

fertility check and optimising fertility

It is estimated that 1 in 7 couples in the UK have problems conceiving, with many not realising it until they’ve been trying for over a year. There are a lot of things which can affect fertility and according to experts, 35%-50% of couples experience trouble due to sperm-related problems. This means it’s no longer considered a largely female-only issue.

However, the good news is there are ways to optimise your fertility. Below, you will discover just 5 ways to increase your chances of conception.

  1. A fertility health check

If you’ve tried and failed to get pregnant within a year, it’s a good idea to undergo a fertility health check. This is open to single women and couples of all ages.

You’ll be assessed by a gynaecologist, who will help you determine the case of the problem. They’ll also be able to help you decide what the next steps should be in terms of treatment if it’s needed. Having a fertility assessment can really boost your confidence and help you to see there is hope, regardless of what the issue may be. They’re minimally invasive too so no need to worry about extensive, invasive testing.

  1. Keep your weight in check

If you’re underweight or overweight, it’s going to have a significant impact on your fertility. This is because both can lead to issues with hormone imbalances. Even if you do manage to get pregnant, an unhealthy weight can increase the risk of miscarriage, as well as complications with both the pregnancy and birth.

If you don’t already, now’s the time to get into a regular exercise routine and ensure you eat a healthy, balanced diet.

  1. Be wary of infections

If you have been trying to get pregnant for over a year, you’re going to have had regular unprotected sex. It’s a myth that sexually transmitted diseases only come from having sex with people you don’t know, or with multiple partners. The truth is, you can develop a sexually transmitted disease, even if you are only having sex with your partner.

The trouble is, some sexually transmitted diseases such as Chlamydia, have no symptoms at all. So, you could have one without even realising it. These infections can block your fallopian tubes, making conception pretty difficult. So, it’s best to get screened for any infections you may have.

  1. Quit smoking

Did you know that smoking is said to be responsible for around 13% of fertility issues worldwide? In terms of fertility, smoking can age you by as much as 10 years. So, if you’re a smoker, you’re going to be up to 30% less fertile than a non-smoker. It’s also going to make it three times more likely that you’ll need to try to get pregnant for over a year. This provides pretty compelling evidence to quit.

  1. Avoid undertaking extreme lifestyle changes

Finally, although you do need to lead a healthy lifestyle to increase your fertility, it’s important not to try to be too healthy. Extreme lifestyle choices can ruin your chances of getting pregnant. So, stay away from overly-strict diets and excessive exercise.

These are just 5 of the best ways you can optimise your fertility. Remember, it’s best to undergo a fertility health check to determine the best way to increase your chances of conceiving and to address any issues which may be present.

fertility treatment

As IVF celebrates its 40th birthday this month, it’s hard to believe just how much the fertility treatment has achieved over the years. From its first ‘test tube baby’ in 1980, to now over 8 million babies born worldwide through the treatment, IVF has had a remarkable journey.

Here, we’ll look at some of the major changes seen within this groundbreaking fertility treatment since it all began.

1969: Acceptance of petri dish conception

Assisted reproduction may be widely accepted today, but in the 1960’s when it all began, there was a lot of opposition against IVF techniques.

Pioneered by Robert Edwards, a physiologist from Cambridge, the first human egg cell fertilisation in vitro, was reported successful in 1969. This caused a lot of controversy, with many experts claiming the research was worthless and ethically questionable. Thankfully, they continued on to refine the petri dish method which resulted in the birth of the very first test tube baby, Louise Brown, in 1978.

1978: The birth of Louise Brown

When Louise Brown was born, it completely changed public opinion of the procedure. It was clear to see that a test tube baby was just like any other. She was even described by newspapers at the time as ‘the baby of the century’.

The shift in public opinion enabled IVF to become what it is today. Further research and developments were made, setting the UK up as an embryology world leader.

1983: Donor eggs used for the first time

Initially, IVF was only available to women with their own eggs. This was because women with no ovaries or who had suffered through early menopause, didn’t have the right conditions to host donor eggs. However, researchers worked on developing a way to make the womb receptive to donor eggs.

They produced a solution by giving the women a cocktail of hormones to improve and develop the womb’s lining. Then, in 1983, this method helped an Australian woman with no ovaries to give birth. It was a breakthrough which opened up the door for many other women.

1992: Fertility treatment extended to help infertile men

Up until 1992, fertility treatment largely focused on women. However, experts recognised that approximately half of fertility issues were down to male-related fertility. So, they developed a procedure which was performed in Belgium in 1992, which in turn, revolutionised the fertility industry.

The procedure is known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection and it’s known to fertilise up to 70% of eggs that it is used on. Rather than mixing the sperm and the egg in a petri dish, the sperm is instead injected directly into the egg. These days, it is considered the most successful treatment for male-related infertility issues.

The above are the main significant milestones IVF has reached throughout the years. Compared to when it was first introduced, the techniques and success rates have improved enormously. Couples who are experiencing fertility problems now have more choices than ever before. So, there’s certainly a lot to celebrate as IVF turns 40! Couples who are experiencing fertility issues are encouraged to seek help from a fertility specialist. The solution might be easier than you thought.

acupuncture and IVF

With an estimated one in three women in the UK experiencing reproductive health issues, it’s unsurprising many turn to alternative fertility treatments available on the market.

Acupuncture is one treatment which claims to improve fertility and treat reproductive issues in a natural and safe manner. However, a new study has revealed acupuncture actually has no impact on the success of IVF.

Acupuncture study reveals just 0.5% difference in effectiveness

In order to determine how successful acupuncture is at boosting IVF success, a study provided women with both acupuncture treatment and a sham treatment to compare results. The sessions were provided prior to fresh embryo transfer, as well as on the actual day of the transfer.

It involved a total of 848 women from 16 different IVF centres in Australia and New Zealand. Some were given real acupuncture sessions, while others were given a sham acupuncture treatment. The sham sessions involved using non-invasive needles placed further away from true acupuncture points.

The study ran from June 2011 to October 2015 and interesting discovered just a 0.5% difference in effectiveness between the real and sham acupuncture sessions. It was revealed that 18.3% of the women who underwent true acupuncture, went on to have a live birth through IVF. However, those who were provided fake acupuncture had a 17.8% success rate.

The results of the study have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Conflicting evidence can prove confusing for patients

This latest study is sure to produce confusion in patients looking into acupuncture as a boost for fertility. While the results of this latest study show acupuncture does not improve live birth rates in IVF, previous studies have shown it can be effective at boosting fertility.

Indeed, this alternative therapy has been proven to have a positive impact on fertility. Largely, it has been shown to reduce stress, improve the lining of the womb and also increase blood flow to the womb. Patients also appear to undergo a Psycho-social benefit of acupuncture. This means they feel more relaxed and better about themselves after the sessions.

So, could acupuncture still be worthwhile?

Although it doesn’t appear to have a major impact on live birth rate success during IVF, that isn’t to say acupuncture can’t prove useful. The fact it relaxes patients prior to their fresh embryo transplant procedure can have a positive impact on its success. It can also have a positive impact on self-esteem, which can also help women undergoing IVF, who typically experience feelings of inadequacy and poor self-esteem.

As it’s a natural, alternative treatment, there are no risks involved. That is, of course, provided patients choose an experienced and qualified therapist. The practice also offers numerous other health benefits, so it certainly can’t hurt to give it a go.

All in all, while acupuncture doesn’t appear to improve live birth rate success, it has shown to have other benefits in terms of fertility. Therefore, it can prove useful, even if just to relax patients prior to the treatment.

reproductive health issue

A new government survey has revealed one in three UK women experience a reproductive health issue. The most surprising revelation of the study is that almost 50% of women aged 25-34 haven’t enjoyed having sex for at least 12 months. According to experts, lack of enjoyment in sex can contribute towards reproductive health issues, as well as emotional and mental wellbeing.

Here, we’ll analyse the results of the study and what it means for women in terms of their reproductive health.

A look into the results of the study

The study, carried out by Public Health England, surveyed 7,367 women in the UK. It revealed that a third of those surveyed were experiencing and extreme reproductive health issue, including significant period pain, the menopause or infertility.

It also revealed that 42% of women from all age groups were unhappy with their sex life, with the majority of those who are unhappy being millennials. In contrast, it discovered women who are aged 55-64 are the happiest, with just 29% claiming to not enjoy sex.

Almost a third of women claim their problems are debilitating

The study revealed 81% of survey respondents had suffered a reproductive health-related issue within the past 12 months. Of these women, 31% claim the problems are so severe, they prove debilitating in everyday life.

The menopause appears to have a significant impact on women’s self-esteem, with some claiming it made them feel worthless. However, out of all the participants who experienced reproductive issues in the past 12 months, just 46% of them sought treatment. Public Health England believes this is largely down to embarrassment and the stigma surrounding reproductive conditions.

Reproductive health needs to be prioritised

After the results of the survey were revealed, Public Health England has promised to prioritise women’s reproductive health issues. Working alongside NHS England and the Department of Health, they are hoping to encourage women to start seeking treatment.

In particular, more needs to be done to address GP’s approach to treating women with reproductive health concerns. One woman involved in the survey claimed she did seek advice from her GP for extreme menopausal symptoms including depression and anxiety, just to be told it was completely normal.

Another woman went to see her GP about fertility issues, just to be told she should have started trying for a baby at the age of 22. In both of these cases, the response from the GP was unhelpful and, in some way, adds to the stigma of why many women don’t seek help.

Could gynaecological scans prove valuable?

Although seeking advice and a diagnosis can be off-putting, failing to do so can lead to unnecessary worry. It can also cause any reproductive health issues the patient is experiencing, to worsen over time.

Gynaecological scans are highly recommended for patients who are worried about their reproductive health. These non-invasive scans can accurately diagnose the problem and determine the best course of treatment.

Women don’t need to feel embarrassed or ashamed of suffering from a reproductive health issue. By visiting a private clinic, you’ll receive the very best advice and successfully pinpoint the cause of the issues. Gynaecological scans and tests can identify numerous internal reproductive issues. If you’re worried about your reproductive health, booking gynaecological tests is a great first step to treating the problem.

ferility patients and the NHS lottery

IVF pioneer, Dr Simon Fishel, has hit out at the NHS IVF Postcode Lottery, calling it “totally unacceptable” and unfair.

In current guidelines, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), claims women under the age of 40 who have failed to become pregnant after two years of trying, should be offered three free IVF cycles on the NHS. However, after recent budget crackdowns in the NHS, some clinics have stopped offering free IVF cycles altogether, while others have significantly restricted the service.

Here, we’ll examine the IVF postcode lottery and what fertility patients can do if they don’t qualify for free treatment.

IVF treatment often dependent upon CCG policies

For women seeking free IVF treatment in England, their chances of being accepted depend largely upon their local CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group). Each CCG has its own policies relating to IVF and who can benefit from free treatment.

For some, they require women seeking treatment to be of a healthy weight, non-smokers and they mustn’t have had children previously. Some CCGs also only offer one free cycle, rather than the recommended three cycles set out in the NICE guidelines. There are even some CCGs which have withdrawn free treatment altogether.

So, for those who reside in the areas which have withdrawn free treatment, unless they can afford to go private, they have no chance of getting pregnant. The latest areas to withdraw free IVF treatment in England, include Croydon CCG, Basildon and Brentwood CCG and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG.

Praise for other countries which offer consistent and fair treatment

Dr Fishel has praised other countries which have developed a fair IVF system over the past 40 years. Israel leads the way, generously providing funding for as many cycles as it takes for a couple to get pregnant. Australia follows closely behind, offering six free cycles to patients.

July 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of IVF, so it is disappointing to see the treatment is now largely unavailable to those in need. The goal was to provide patients with an equal and fair opportunity to benefit from IVF, something which seems to now be a long way off.

So, does this mean that patients would be better heading to other countries to have the treatment? Not necessarily! While other countries may offer free, or at least significantly discounted treatment, the regulations may not be as strict as they are in the UK. Therefore, safety cannot always be guaranteed.

What options are there for fertility patients?

As the rules regarding free IVF treatment in England do vary depending upon the area, it is recommended fertility patients first speak to their GP. They will be able to tell you whether there are free treatments in the area, or whether any funding is available to aid in private treatment.

If private treatment is the only option, patients are advised to research their options in-depth before choosing the right clinic. Each set their own fees, and some won’t include the cost of fertility drugs. It is also important to choose a respectable, reliable clinic to ensure the highest chance of success.

pelvic pain and older women

A new study has revealed that pelvic pain is a common concern for older women. Analysing data from women in New Zealand, the study discovered women approaching the age of 40 often complained of pelvic pain; whether it be pain associated with sexual intercourse or menstrual-related pain.

The study also discovered that endometriosis is commonly diagnosed as the culprit behind pelvic pain in older women. However, as pain is difficult to assess due to different perceptions and definitions, the researchers had to estimate their results based upon specific risk factors. They used a non-biased method and discovered some interesting results.

Here, we’ll look at what the study found, and the options women have if they are concerned about pelvic pain.

Understanding the study

Published within the BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the study used data from a previous study, to assess the prevalence of pelvic pain in 429 women who were 38 years old. It was established 54.5% of the women had experienced pelvic pain within the last 12 months.

It was reported that 46.2% experienced menstrual pain, while 11.6% experienced pain whilst having sexual intercourse. For 17.3% of respondents, they experienced other pelvic pain. These results show that menstrual pain in particular, is a common complaint of women approaching the age of 40.

The study also reveals that those who do experience menstrual pain, have an increased chance of suffering pelvic pain during sexual intercourse too. There was also a link between pelvic pain and a diagnosis of endometriosis.

Women who have experienced pregnancy less likely to develop pelvic pain

One of the most interesting things determined by the study, was that women who had undergone a pregnancy, had a lesser chance of experiencing pain during intercourse. Women who had undergone childbirth were also discovered to have a decreased chance of experiencing other pelvic pain.  However, women who have given birth still had the same prevalence of menstrual pain as those who haven’t.

One concern women have when they experience regular pelvic pain, is the effect it could have on their fertility. The study revealed pelvic pain had no long-term negative impact on fertility. The only time it could impact fertility and reproduction is if the pain is diagnosed as endometriosis. Even then, that doesn’t necessarily mean women won’t be able to get pregnant naturally.

Could Gynaecological scans help diagnose pelvic pain?

Although pelvic pain may not necessarily link to fertility issues, it is still worth seeking a proper diagnosis. Gynaecological scans are one way to determine the cause of pelvic pain. There are numerous types of gynaecological scans available, with each looking out for different issues.

Identifying any potential internal issues ensures treatment can be provided quickly if required. It can also help provide peace of mind to patients who are worried about their pelvic pain and potential issues with fertility.

Overall, pelvic pain is extremely common for older women, but it isn’t usually down to a serious health problem. That being said, it is always better to determine the cause and find a suitable treatment to reduce or eliminate the pain. Gynaecological scans are a great way to identify potential internal issues and help women figure out what is going on.

endometriosis and fertility

Singer Halsey has recently opened up about her struggle with Endometriosis and her decision to freeze her eggs. The 23-year-old claims she is often asked why she plans to freeze her eggs at such a young age, as many people are unaware of the conditions impact on fertility.

While Endometriosis does not necessarily prevent natural conception, it is known to cause several fertility issues. Here, we’ll look at how the condition can impact fertility and the options open to those who are concerned.

How can Endometriosis affect fertility?

Although there has been a link identified between endometriosis and infertility, the exact cause remains unknown. Those with a milder form of the condition are known to have practically the same chance of conceiving naturally. However, some do still experience infertility and experts currently have no idea why. Those suffering from moderate or severe Endometriosis have a reduced chance of conception, though it is still possible.

The reason more severe forms of the condition can lead to fertility issues is because it can lead to an increase in adhesions. These trap the eggs, preventing them from travelling down the fallopian tubes.

Is freezing your eggs a good option?

So, suffering from Endometriosis may not prevent you from experiencing natural conception, but it can reduce your chances. The longer it goes on, the more likely it is to affect the eggs. Therefore, freezing the eggs can be a fantastic way to preserve fertility.

The eggs are collected, frozen and then thawed and inserted back into the ovaries whenever the woman decides they’re ready to start a family. They are collected under sedation or general anaesthetic, before a cryoprotectant is added to protect the eggs while they’re frozen. They will be stored within tanks containing liquid nitrogen until you’re ready to start a family.

The only issue is the cost. While singer Halsey may be able to afford to pay for the treatment, most women may need to save up for the procedure. Those who do have the funds are recommended to seek this form of treatment.

What other options are available?

If the cost of freezing your eggs is a little too expensive, there are other options available. Drug treatments have found to be effective in mild forms of the condition, while surgical treatment has proven to be effective at treating more severe Endometriosis. It involves removing adhesions, cysts and nodules. However, it is worth noting that even after surgery, the condition may come back, and the development of further adhesions is possible.

The treatment recommended will depend upon the severity of the condition, how long the woman has been trying to conceive and various other fertility factors. For this reason, it’s crucial patients seek a thorough consultation prior to seeking treatment.

Overall, Endometriosis can have an impact on fertility and egg freezing is an ideal solution for those who can afford it. However, there may be other treatment options available. Book a consultation today to discover which form of treatment would best suit you.

diet and menopause

A new study into diet and menopause has revealed that oily fish could delay the onset of the menopause by three years. Carried out by the University of Leeds, the study also discovered fresh legumes such as beans, could also help delay the natural process. In contrast, it discovered eating just one daily portion of refined carbohydrates such as pasta, could trigger the menopause to begin earlier.

The average age women go through the menopause in the UK is 51. So, could your diet really impact how quickly you experience the menopause? Here, we’ll explore the findings of the new study and how diet and menopause are linked.

Understanding the results of the diet and menopause study

The new research which has been published within the Journal of Epidemiology analysed data from over 14000 women in the UK. The data covered a period of four years, with over 900 of them experiencing the menopause naturally within that time. It is the first study to look into the link between the condition and certain food groups.

One of the most prolific findings of the research discovered that a 90g daily serving of oily fish was linked to a delay in the menopause by 3.3 years. It also found that a 90g daily serving of fresh legumes could delay the menopause by one year.

This wasn’t the only food link discovered in the research either. Meat eaters were shown to also have a one-year delay of the menopause compared to vegetarians. Those who consumed more zinc and Vitamin B6 also were likely to go through the condition a little later.

Why might these foods impact the menopause?

Although the study only observed that certain food groups did appear to affect the menopause, it didn’t look into the cause and effect. However, experts do have their theories as to why oily fish and legumes may delay the onset of the condition[ii].

Largely, it is believed that antioxidants found within legumes and oily fish can impact the release of eggs within the body, as well as their maturation. This, in turn, can therefore help to preserve menstruation. The Omega 3 fatty acids present in oily fish can also enhance the capacity of antioxidants within the body.

The reason refined carbohydrates could speed up the menopause is thought to be because they can increase insulin resistance risk.

How a healthy diet could ease menopausal symptoms

Did you know as well as impacting the onset of the menopause, certain foods can also help to treat the symptoms?

Hot flushes, tiredness, weight gain and even dry skin can all be eased with the right diet according to previous studies. Avoiding caffeine and other stimulants can reduce hot flushes while increasing complex carbohydrates and cutting back on fat can reduce the risk of weight gain. There is no set diet you should follow, just focus on consuming a healthy, balanced diet with as few processed foods as possible.

So, while the recent research doesn’t provide proof of the cause and effect of food groups on the menopause, it does clearly show a positive link. This can help women make better food choices to prepare them for the menopause and potentially delay it.

Non Invasive Prenatal Testing

Are you trying to decide whether or not to undergo non-invasive prenatal testing? If your doctor has recommended it, or you’re considering undergoing the test, you may understandably have a few concerns.

Here, you’ll discover everything you need to know about non-invasive prenatal testing to help you make the best decision.

What is non-invasive prenatal testing?

Non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) is a blood test carried out before baby is born and is largely used to detect Down’s Syndrome. However, it can also pick up other chromosomal conditions such as Edward Syndrome and Patau Syndrome[i]. Otherwise referred to as non-invasive prenatal screening, it works by using the maternal scrotum cell-free circulating fetal DNA to identify abnormalities.

NIPT can be performed after just 10 weeks of the pregnancy, with results taking around 10-15 days to come back. It has shown to have an impressive accuracy rating of more than 99% when detecting Down’s Syndrome, making it one of the most reliable tests now available.

It isn’t currently available on the NHS, so women do need to undergo the test privately.

What benefits does non-invasive prenatal testing provide?

The main benefit of NIPT is the fact it doesn’t pose a risk to mother or baby. Up until now, more invasive methods such as amniocentesis have been the only option available. These invasive tests have posed a risk of numerous complications, and in rare cases can even lead to miscarriage. So, the fact NIPT is safe as well as accurate, is a significant benefit to pregnant women.

The test can also provide peace of mind to women who are worried about the health of their unborn baby. However, it is recommended that those with a low risk avoid having the test. Even though it is non-invasive, any unnecessary testing should always be avoided.

Evaluating your risk factor

NIPT is recommended for women who are at high risk of trisomy. If you do not know whether you’re considered high risk, there are a couple of factors you can look at.

Firstly, women aged over 35 are considered to be at a higher risk. However, the best way to determine your risk factor is to undergo routine screening that is offered between 11 and 14 weeks into the pregnancy. This involves having an ultrasound and a blood test which looks out for certain proteins within the blood. The doctor looks for markers which could pinpoint Down’s Syndrome and then assesses your age to determine your risk factor. They’ll let you know if you’re considered high risk or not.

It’s worth keeping in mind that this type of screening is not automatically provided. You will usually be given the option, but if not, don’t be afraid to ask for the screening to be carried out.

NIPT has a very low false positive rate too. So, if you are classed as a high risk, it is definitely worth undergoing NIPT privately. Contact us today to book a consultation and arrange your NIPT appointment.