Science and Profession (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Gynecology is the branch of medical science that treats the functions and diseases unique to women, particularly in the nonpregnant state. A gynecologist is a licensed medical doctor who has obtained specialty training. Unlike many fields in medicine that are clearly defined by surgical or nonsurgical practice, gynecology involves both. In the early nineteenth century, gynecology was closely tied to general surgery. In fact, one of the first reported cases of abdominal surgery in which the patient survived and was cured of a condition occurred in 1809, with the successful removal of a massive ovarian tumor by Ephraim McDowell (without the benefit of anesthesia or antibiotics).
Gynecology is much more than just a surgical field. With the tremendous progress made in the basic sciences and medical sciences by the twenty-first century, gynecology now involves a broad spectrum of medical fields, including developmental and congenital disorders relating to puberty and adolescence, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and other infectious diseases, contraception, menstrual disturbances, endocrinology, early pregnancy issues, infertility, preventive health, problems related to menopause, incontinence, and oncology, specifically dealing with cancers of the reproductive system (such as the ovaries, uterus, and breasts). Although much gynecologic care is provided by medical doctors, routine gynecologic care is also often...
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Diagnostic and Treatment Techniques (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Many gynecologic visits are done for routine screening of healthy women. When a patient presents with a problem or complaint, a good history from the patient regarding the nature of the problem is crucial for diagnosis. The history is almost always followed by a physical examination. Probably the best known diagnostic technique in gynecology is the pelvic examination. Young women used to receive routine pelvic examinations more often than is now recommended. New guidelines recommend that women have routine screening examinations beginning at age twenty-one, or three years after onset of sexual activity, whichever age is first. The purpose of the examination is to confirm normal anatomy, rule out pathological conditions, and prevent the development of cancers through early screening tests such as the Pap testing.
The pelvic examination is typically performed with the woman on her back, knees apart, with feet and legs supported by stirrups. Visual inspection of the external genitalia is performed; this involves inspecting the pubic region to ensure normal secondary sexual development as well as to look for abnormalities such as unusual lesions on the labia, which may indicate infections (by fungi, bacteria, viruses, or parasites), skin conditions (such as eczema), or cancer. The next portion is a bimanual examination. The examiner places one hand on the patient’s abdomen and gently inserts two fingers of...
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Perspective and Prospects (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
The formation of a medical field specific to women’s diseases largely began in the nineteenth century. At the time, the treatment of women’s diseases was inextricably linked with the role of women in society. In the nineteenth century, women were often viewed as frail and limited by their cyclical physiology and childbearing role. Consequently, they were excluded from the male-dominated spheres of politics, professional careers, and education. For instance, influential psychiatrist Henry Maudsley (1835-1918) wrote about the harm that higher education would cause to the physiologic development of postpubescent girls. Edward Clarke (1820-1877), a Harvard Medical School professor, wrote in 1873 that higher education might develop the intellect, but at the expense of the reproductive organs, leading to painful menstrual periods and abnormal uterine function.
The field has evolved dramatically since then, with much of the evolution tied to changes in the role of women in society as well as to technological and scientific advances. Today, one of the major forces changing gynecological practice (as well as many other fields of medicine) is the concept of evidence-based medicine. This movement is based on the idea that medical practice must be guided by scientific evidence as well as good intentions. Without objective evidence that a treatment is effective, even the best of intentions can result in patient harm....
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For Further Information: (Magill’s Medical Guide, Sixth Edition)
Berek, Jonathan S., ed. Berek and Novak’s Gynecology. 14th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2007. A standard text covering all aspects of gynecology, with an emphasis on diagnosis and treatment. Topics include biology and physiology, family planning, sexuality, evaluation of pelvic infections, early pregnancy loss, benign breast disease, benign gynecologic conditions, malignant diseases of the reproductive tract, and breast cancer.
Boston Women’s Health Collective. Our Bodies, Ourselves: A New Edition for a New Era. 35th anniversary ed. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005. Contains in-depth discussions of topics related to gynecology. This book was written by women for women and is one of the best reference works available on this subject for the general reader.
Doherty, Gerard M., and Lawrence W. Way, eds. Current Surgical Diagnosis and Treatment. 12th ed. New York: Lange Medical Books/McGraw-Hill, 2006. Provides information on the surgical aspects of women’s health and gynecology.
Kasper, Dennis L., et al., eds. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. 16th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005. Contains many good chapters on women’s major health problems.
Rushing, Lynda, and Nancy Joste. Abnormal Pap Smears: What Every Woman Needs to Know. Rev. ed. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2008. Explains the causes of cervical...
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Gynecology (Encyclopedia of Science)
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...
(The entire section is 556 words.)