gynecology

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Gynecology

History

The menstrual cycle

Testing

Gynecology, from the Greek meaning the study of women, is a medical specialty dealing with the health of a womans genital tract. The genital tract is made up of the reproductive organs including the vagina, cervix, uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and their supporting structures.

Marked changes occur in a womans reproductive organs upon her reaching menarche (the age at which she begins to menstruate) and again during any pregnancy that occurs in her life. Later, at the stage known as menopause, she experiences still other changes. It is the specialty of the gynecologist to guide women through these alterations and to ensure that they retain their health throughout each stage.

Maturity of the reproductive organs has to do with hormonal regulation of the organs centering on the pituitary gland in the brain. This gland, the master endocrine gland, stimulates the ovaries to produce other hormones that encourage the maturity of an ovum (egg). The egg is released from the ovary, is carried down to the uterus (womb), and if the egg is not fertilized the woman has her period, or menses. This activity is the sloughing off of the lining of the uterus that is rebuilt each month in preparation to accept a fertilized ovum.

This cycle occurs approximately once a month or so if the woman is not pregnant. Thus, each month the uterus and the ovaries go through a cycle of preparation and dissolution and rebuilding far more profound than do any organs in the male body.

History

Until the late nineteenth century, physicians linked the female menstrual cycle to the phases of Earths moon. Of course, if that were so, every female would have her menstrual period at the same time. It was late in the nineteenth century that researchers attributed menstrual changes to hormones. Not until the early twentieth century were those hormones isolated in pure form and named. Female hormones as a group are called estrogens.

The menstrual cycle

Hormonal interaction during the menstrual cycle includes hormones from the pituitary, the ovaries, and the uterus itself. In a complicated, interwoven pattern the hormones become dominant and retiring in turn, allowing ovulation (release of the ovum), fertilization, implantation (lodging of the fertilized egg on the wall of the womb), or menstruation, and then beginning over again.

The female reproductive organs are very susceptible to pathologic changesthose that constitute disease. Hormonal disruption can alter the cycle or stop it and other, as yet unknown causes can change cell development to a cancerous lesion. Also, at approximately 50 years of age, the woman undergoes what is commonly called the change of life, or menopause. Here the hormonal pattern changes so that eggs no longer are produced and the menstrual cycle no longer takes place. Again, at this stage the woman is susceptible to long-term pathologic changes leading to osteoporosis (thinning of the bones), which renders her more likely to suffer fractures.

Testing

The gynecologist can monitor a womans stage in life and administer tests to determine whether her reproductive organs are healthy. Removing, staining, and studying cells from the vagina and cervix each year can help to detect cancer early, when it is curable. This test, commonly called the Pap test (or the Papanicolaous smear), is named after the Greek-born American physician who developed it in the mid-twentieth centuryGeorge Nicholas Papanicolaou (18831962). In 1917, Papanicolaou began a microscopic study of vaginal discharge cells in pigs. After expanding his research to humans, he observed cell abnormalities in a woman with cervical cancer. Papanicolaou learned that by scraping cells from the vaginal walls at a certain stage in the womans cycle and staining the cells for viewing under a microscope, he could determine whether any abnormal cells were present that could be forerunners of cancer. This discovery inspired him to develop a method of detecting cancer through microscopic cell examination, or cytology. This technique had first been suggested by English physician Lionel Smith Beale (18281906) in 1867. Papanicolaou began publishing reports on his cytologic method of uterine and cervical cancer detection in 1928, but most of his colleagues remained committed to the standard procedures of cervical biopsy and curettage. In 1939, Papanicolaou began collaborating with American gynecologist Herbert Traut. Their 1943 monograph, Diagnosis of Uterine Cancer by the Vaginal Smear, won wide acceptance for the procedure, and Papanicolaou began teaching it to physicians from around the world.

Gynecologists can also investigate why a woman is unable to become pregnant. She may have obstructed fallopian tubes or a hormonal imbalance that prevents maturity and release of the ovum or prevents implantation of the fertilized ovum onto the uterine wall. In each case, steps can be taken to correct or bypass the problem so the woman can bear children.

Gynecology has advanced to the point that the physician can force the ovaries to produce eggs, which can then be removed and fertilized in a dish (called in vitro fertilization) and then implanted in the uterus. This technique is not guaranteed to produce an infant, but in many cases the implanted ovum will mature into the desired offspringoften into more than one baby. The science of gynecology continues to make advances against the pathology that may deny a woman the ability to have babies.

See also Puberty; Reproductive system.

views updated

Gynecology

Gynecology, from the Greek meaning "the study of women," is a medical specialty dealing with the health of a woman's genital tract. The genital tract is made up of the reproductive organs including the vagina, cervix, uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and their supporting structures.

Marked changes occur in a woman's reproductive organs upon her reaching menarche (the age at which she begins to menstruate) and again during any pregnancy that occurs in her life. Later, at the stage known as menopause , she experiences still other changes. It is the specialty of the gynecologist to guide women through these alterations and to ensure that they retain their health throughout each stage.

Maturity of the reproductive organs has to do with hormonal regulation of the organs centering on the pituitary gland in the brain . This gland, the master endocrine gland, stimulates the ovaries to produce other hormones that encourage the maturity of an ovum (egg). The egg is released from the ovary, is carried down to the uterus (womb), and if the egg is not fertilized the woman has her "period" or menses. This is the sloughing off of the lining of the uterus which is rebuilt each month in preparation to accept a fertilized ovum.

This cycle occurs approximately once a month or so if the woman is not pregnant. Thus, each month the uterus and the ovaries go through a cycle of preparation and dissolution and rebuilding far more profound than do any organs in the male body.


History

Until the late nineteenth century, physicians linked the female menstrual cycle to the phases of the moon . Of course, if that were so, every female would have her menstrual period at the same time. It was late in the nineteenth century that researchers attributed menstrual changes to hormones. Not until the early twentieth century were those hormones isolated in pure form and named. Female hormones as a group are called estrogens.


The menstrual cycle

Hormonal interaction during the menstrual cycle includes hormones from the pituitary, the ovaries, and the uterus itself. In a complicated, interwoven pattern the hormones become dominant and retiring in turn, allowing ovulation (release of the ovum), fertilization , implantation (lodging of the fertilized egg on the wall of the womb), or menstruation, and then beginning over again.

The female reproductive organs are very susceptible to pathologic changes—those that constitute disease . Hormonal disruption can alter the cycle or stop it and other, as yet unknown causes can change cell development to a cancerous lesion. Also, at approximately 50 years of age, the woman undergoes what is commonly called the "change of life," or menopause. Here the hormonal pattern changes so that eggs no longer are produced and the menstrual cycle no longer takes place. Again, at this stage the woman is susceptible to long-term pathologic changes leading to osteoporosis (thinning of the bones), which renders her more likely to suffer fractures.


Testing

The gynecologist can monitor a woman's stage in life and administer tests to determine whether her reproductive organs are healthy. Removing, staining, and studying cells from the vagina and cervix each year can help to detect cancer early, when it is curable. This test, commonly called the Pap test, is named after the physician who developed it in the mid-twentieth century-George Papanicolaou. He learned that by scraping cells from the vaginal walls at a certain stage in the woman's cycle and staining the cells for viewing under a microscope , he could determine whether any abnormal cells were present that could be forerunners of cancer.

Gynecologists can also investigate why a woman is unable to become pregnant. She may have obstructed fallopian tubes or a hormonal imbalance that prevents maturity and release of the ovum or prevents implantation of the fertilized ovum onto the uterine wall. In each case, steps can be taken to correct or bypass the problem so the woman can bear children.

Gynecology has advanced to the point that the physician can force the ovaries to produce eggs, which can then be removed and fertilized in a dish (called in-vitro fertilization) and then implanted in the uterus. This technique is not guaranteed to produce an infant, but in many cases the implanted ovum will mature into the desired offspring—often into more than one baby. The science of gynecology continues to make advances against the pathology that may deny a woman the ability to have babies.

See also Puberty; Reproductive system.

views updated

Gynecology

Gynecology is the specialized field of medicine dealing with the health of a woman's genital system. The genital system consists of the reproductive organs, including the uterus (the womb; the organ in which a fetus develops), cervix (the opening between the uterus and the vagina), ovaries (organs that produce eggs and sex hormones), fallopian tubes (organs that carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus), vagina (the muscular

tube that extends from the uterus to outside the body), as well as their supporting structures.

Significant changes occur in a woman's reproductive organs when she reaches menarche (pronounced me-NAR-key). Menarche is the age at which a woman begins to menstruate. (Menstruation is the monthly cycle in nonpregnant women during which the uterus sheds its lining when fertilization of an egg does not take place.) Other changes occur again during any pregnancy that occurs in her life. A third important period of change occurs during menopause, at which time a woman ceases menstruating. A primary goal of the gynecologist is to guide women through these changes in their lives and to ensure that they retain their health throughout each stage.

Testing

The gynecologist uses a variety of tests to determine the health of a woman's reproductive organs. One such test is known as the Pap test, named after the Greek American physician George Papanicolaou (18831962) who developed the test in the mid-twentieth century. The Pap test involves the removal, staining, and study of cells taken from the vagina and cervix. The test can be used to detect the early stages of uterine cancer.

Words to Know

In vitro fertilization: A process by which a woman's eggs are fertilized outside her body and then re-implanted back into it.

Menarche: The age at which a woman begins to menstruate.

Menopause: The period in a woman's life during which she ceases menstruating.

Menstruation: The monthly cycle in nonpregnant women during which the uterus sheds its lining when fertilization of an egg does not take place. It is often accompanied by a small discharge of blood.

Pap test: A test that can be used to detect the early stages of uterine cancer.

Gynecologists also can investigate the reasons that a woman is unable to become pregnant. Typical problems involve plugged fallopian tubes or a hormonal (chemical) imbalance that prevents an egg from becoming mature, releasing properly from the ovaries, or implanting onto the uterine wall. In each of these cases, steps can be taken to correct or bypass the problem so the woman can bear children.

Gynecology has advanced to the point that a physician can force the ovaries to produce eggs. These eggs can then be removed and fertilized in a dish and then implanted in the uterus. This method is known as in vitro fertilization because fertilization occurs within glass dishes (vitro is Latin for "glass") rather than a living body. In addition, the science of gynecology continues to make advances against the diseases and disorders that may deny a woman the ability to have children.

[See also Puberty; Reproductive system ]

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gynecology •haji • algae • Angie •argy-bargy, Panaji •edgy, sedgy, solfeggi, veggie, wedgie •cagey, stagy •mangy, rangy •Fiji, gee-gee, squeegee •Murrumbidgee, ridgy, squidgy •dingy, fringy, mingy, stingy, whingy •cabbagy • prodigy • effigy • villagey •porridgy • strategy • cottagey •dodgy, podgy, splodgy, stodgy •pedagogy •Georgie, orgy •ogee • Fuji •bhaji, budgie, pudgy, sludgy, smudgy •bulgy •bungee, grungy, gungy, scungy, spongy •allergy, analogy, genealogy, hypallage, metallurgy, mineralogy, tetralogy •elegy •antilogy, trilogy •aetiology (US etiology), amphibology, anthology, anthropology, apology, archaeology (US archeology), astrology, biology, campanology, cardiology, chronology, climatology, cosmology, craniology, criminology, dermatology, ecology, embryology, entomology, epidemiology, etymology, geology, gynaecology (US gynecology), haematology (US hematology), hagiology, horology, hydrology, iconology, ideology, immunology, iridology, kidology, meteorology, methodology, musicology, mythology, necrology, neurology, numerology, oncology, ontology, ophthalmology, ornithology, parasitology, pathology, pharmacology, phraseology, phrenology, physiology, psychology, radiology, reflexology, scatology, Scientology, seismology, semiology, sociology, symbology, tautology, technology, terminology, theology, topology, toxicology, urology, zoology • eulogy • energy • synergy • apogee • liturgy • lethargy •burgee, clergy •zymurgy • dramaturgy

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gy·ne·col·o·gy / ˌgīnəˈkäləjē; ˌjinə-/ (Brit. gy·nae·col·o·gy) • n. the branch of physiology and medicine that deals with the functions and diseases specific to women and girls, esp. those affecting the reproductive system. DERIVATIVES: gyn·e·co·log·ic / -kəˈläjik/ adj. gyn·e·co·log·i·cal / -kəˈläjikəl/ adj. gyn·e·co·log·i·cal·ly / -kəˈläjik(ə)lē/ adv. gy·ne·col·o·gist / -jist/ n.

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gynaecology (gy-ni-kol-ŏji) n. the study of diseases of women and girls, particularly those affecting the female reproductive system. Compare obstetrics.
gynaecological adj. —gynaecologist n. http://guidance.nice.org.uk/topic/gynaecology/?node=7118&wordid;=96 Guidance from NICE focusing on gynaecological conditions

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gynaecology Area of medicine concerned with the female reproductive organs. Its study and practice is often paired with obstetrics.