August 24, 2013 | by Kim Proescholdt
Bladder and pelvic floor problems — including urinary and fecal incontinence, as well as uterine and vaginal prolapse — affect nearly 13 million American women. The National Institutes of Health estimates that one-third of women in the United States will experience pelvic floor disorders in their lifetime, but most women consider their condition to be private and are reluctant to talk about it. Left untreated, however, such conditions can become a constant source of discomfort and pain, drastically affecting women's health, vitality and self-esteem.
Christopher Chung, M.D., a City of Hope urogynecologist specializing in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, wants to reassure women of all ages that these difficult medical issues can be successfully managed and, often, cured.
What is a urogynecologist and who should see one?
A urogynecologist is a specialist with background training in both obstetrics and gynecology who treats women with pelvic floor disorders. This condition includes bladder and bowel control issues, pelvic organ prolapse (the dropping or falling of the uterus, bladder, rectum and/or vagina), pelvic pain and sexual function disorders. These problems affect women of all ages, and in most cases, seeing a urogynecologist can significantly improve or completely eliminate these problems.
What are the major causes of pelvic floor disorders and who is at risk?
Age, race, obesity, childbirth, repeated heavy lifting, chronic diseases, history of pelvic surgery (including gynecological cancer surgery) are all risk factors and can weaken the pelvic floor. Inherited factors also can contribute to pelvic floor disorders.
Why did you choose this specialty? What inspires you to do the work you do?
Pelvic floor disorders can be detrimental to a woman’s daily life. I want to change that and, in a sense, give a woman her life back. It is very satisfying and rewarding to see my patients improve their quality of life. And many times, the change in their life can be seen immediately after treatment.
What are the biggest and/or newest developments in treating pelvic floor disorders?
One of the newest developments in the field is the approval of using Botox to treat patients with urge urinary incontinence, the involuntary loss of urine occurring for no apparent reason while suddenly feeling the need or urge to urinate. In addition, placing an electrical stimulator (known as neuromodulation) at the spine has also been approved to treat urge urinary incontinence and fecal incontinence.
Where is the field going and what do you think will be accomplished in the next five or 10 years?
More researchers will look into the pathophysiology and genetics of pelvic floor disorders. I believe tissue regeneration technology will play a big role in the next 10 years. It’s very exciting to see.
What advice do you have for patients recently diagnosed with pelvic floor disorders?
Women need to know that these disorders need not stand in the path to a full life. Do not feel embarrassed about the pelvic floor symptoms you are experiencing. It is important to learn about the many options available to treat pelvic floor disorders. Not everyone needs surgery. Many pelvic floor disorders can be successfully treated with conservative management such as diet modification, medication, and behavioral and physical therapy. The key is to ask your doctor to refer you to a specialist, like myself, who has the expertise in this area. You are not alone. Call 800-256-HOPE (4673) today. Help is waiting.