Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a pattern of abusive behavior by a person who is in some type of intimate relationship with the victim. The abuse can be physical, sexual, or emotional and can include economic deprivation. Although anyone can be a victim of IPV, women are much more likely than men to be victims. Regardless of the type of abuse, the goal of the abuser is to gain control over the victim. IPV is common but is often not diagnosed, in part because patients try to hide the abuse.
The prevalence estimate of IPV varies depending on the setting.
Rates are higher when measured in emergency departments than when
measured in the general population. In a randomized controlled
trial of IPV screening in emergency departments, the prevalence
over 12-months ranged from 4% to 18%.
Risk factors for abuse include being young (under age 35 years);
being pregnant; being single, divorced, or separated; alcohol or
drug abuse in the victim or the partner; smoking; and being poor.
Since patients often do not volunteer that they have been abused,
clinicians must be alert to clues that suggest abuse, including
an explanation of the injuries that do not fit with what is being
seen; frequent visits to the emergency department; and somatic complaint
such as chronic headache, abdominal pain, and fatigue. The patient
may be vague about some of her symptoms and may avoid eye contact.
If the abusing partner is present, he or she may answer all the
questions or may decline to leave the room. It is critical that
the patient have the opportunity to speak with the clinician alone.
The patient's description of the events should be carefully
detailed in case there are any subsequent legal issues.
Physical examination often reveals injuries in the central area
of the body. There may be injuries on the forearms as well if the
patient tried to defend herself. As with any situation of expected abuse,
bruises that are in various stages of healing may be an important
clue. All physical examination findings should be well documented.
In addition to the physical consequences, abuse can have psychological
consequences. Posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety,
and alcohol or other substance abuse can develop in victims. Somatization
is also very common among victims.
Several instruments have been developed to screen for IPV. These
include the HITS (Hurt, Insult, Threaten, Screamed at) tool, the
Women Abuse Screening tool (WAST), the Partner Violence Screen (PVS),
the Abuse Assessment Screen (AAS), and the Women's Experience
with Battering (WEB) scale. A systematic review of these
screening tools showed that most tools had only been evaluated in
a relatively small number of studies and the sensitivities and specificities
varied widely within and between the tools.
Inclusion of one question in the context of the medical history, "Have
you ever been hit, kicked, punched or otherwise hurt by someone
within the past year? If so, by whom?" has been shown to increase
identification of IPV.
Many studies have addressed how the questions about IPV are asked.
In one randomized trial, women preferred written questionnaires
over face to face interviewing.
Screening for IPV (in contrast to asking questions when IPV is
suspected) has been advocated by many experts, although there is
currently no evidence that it improves outcomes. In a randomized controlled
trial conducted in emergency departments and other clinical sites,
women in the screened group were assessed for IPV and if the screen
was positive, the information was given to the clinician before
the visit. At 18-month follow-up, there was no difference in recurrence
of IPV among women in the screened compared with the non-screened
groups. There were also no differences in quality of life, although
there were no adverse effects of screening.
The USPSTF has concluded that there is insufficient evidence
to recommend for or against universal screening for IPV, since there
is currently no evidence that screening improves outcomes. However,
clinicians should remain on high alert for clues to IPV among patients.
Interventions can include encouraging the woman to leave the
abusive situation, ensuring that she has a safe place to go, and
counseling so that she can adequately assess her risk of danger
and create a plan for safety. There is no evidence that treatment
of the abuser changes abuser behavior.
When to Refer
- Victims should be referred to social services
so that they can provide information on local resources. There is
a national domestic violence hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) that can provide
information on local resources.
- In general, mandatory reporting of IPV or suspicion of it in adult women who are competent is not required in most states. However, mandatory reporting by physicians is required in California, Colorado, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Rhode Island.
|Ahmad F et al. Computer-assisted screening for
intimate partner violence and control: a randomized trial. Ann Intern
Med. 2009 Jul 21;151(2):93102.
|MacMillan HL et al; McMaster Violence Against Women Research
Group. Screening for intimate partner violence in health care settings:
a randomized trial. JAMA. 2009 Aug 5;302 (5):493501.
|Rabin RF et al. Intimate partner violence screening tools: a
systematic review. Am J Prev Med. 2009 May;36(5):43945.
Eating disorders are common in women. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia
nervosa are described in detail in Chapter 29: Nutritional Disorders. The female athlete
triad, disordered eating in diabetics, and binge eating disorders
are other eating disorders that should be considered in appropriate
- Disordered eating.
- Menstrual disorders.
- Low BMD.
Female athletes who participate in sports and activities valuing
thinness are at increased risk for developing the female athlete
triad. The definition of the triad includes disordered eating (a
spectrum of abnormal patterns of eating, including bingeing; purging;
food restriction; prolonged fasting; and the use of diet pills,
diuretics, or laxatives), menstrual disorders, and low BMD. Half
of all athletes with amenorrhea have bone density at least 1.0 standard
deviation below the mean. The bone density is decreased even in
those areas subjected to stress during exercise. The diagnosis is
made when the individual meets the three criteria of the triad.
Individuals with the female athlete triad display some pattern
of disordered eating and have some menstrual irregularities. Many
women have amenorrhea but others have irregular menses. Typically,
the patient has concerns about weight and body image. A history
of stress fractures should also raise the clinician's concern.
Depending on the severity of the symptoms and whether or not
the patient is bingeing and purging, the laboratory abnormalities
can be similar to those seen in anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.
BMD, if measured, is decreased.
The main differential diagnoses include anorexia nervosa, bulimia
nervosa as well as endocrine disorders such as hyperthyroidism and
Little evidence is currently available about treatment of the
female athlete triad. Strategies such as counseling, cognitive behavior
therapy, and possibly exercise restriction may be helpful. A multidisciplinary
approach, including consultation with a nutritionist and communication
with the coach and trainers, may enable common goal setting. The
desire to participate in sports and the lure of a performance enhancing
diet may motivate some patients to pursue treatment.
|Bonci CM et al. National Athletic Trainers' Association
position statement: preventing, detecting and managing disordered
eating in athletes. J Athl Train. 2008 JanMar;43(1):80108.
|Nattiv A et al. American College of Sports Medicine position
stand. The female athlete triad. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007 Oct;39(10):186782.
Eating in Diabetics
- Binge eating.
- Purging with laxatives or vomiting.
- Insulin omission.
- Taking less insulin than prescribed to lose weight.
Eating disturbances have been estimated to be present in up to
one-third of young women with diabetes. Eating disorders are more
common in adolescents with diabetes than in their non-diabetic peers.
Mortality is particularly high in individuals with both diabetes
and eating disorders.
For diabetes, the dietary regimen emphasizes intense meal timing
and consistency. In addition, the hunger associated with hypoglycemia
encourages binge eating. Finally, weight gain is often associated
with good glycemic control. Diabetics with disordered eating have
been shown to have an increased risk of retinopathy. Given the emphasis
that young women often place on body weight, maintaining optimal
diabetes control is a particular challenge. The diagnosis is typically
made in a diabetic who has worsening diabetic control, when other
causes of worsening control have been ruled out.
Diabetics may report polydipsia, polyuria, or weight loss. In
addition, upon questioning, they may report disturbed eating patterns.
Other symptoms associated with eating disorders, such as disturbance
of body image and menstrual irregularities, may also be present.
The main laboratory finding will be a trend of increasing levels
of hemoglobin A1C.
The main differential diagnosis includes looking for other causes
of worsening glycemic control such as underlying infection or metabolic
disease such as hyperthyroidism.
There is currently no evidence to support any particular strategies
for the treatment of disordered eating in diabetic patients. Proposed
strategies for at risk diabetic patients include nutritional counseling
to promote healthy eating instead of dietary restraint, regular
(instead of fixed) meal and snack times, less intensive insulin
therapy to reduce weight gain, and family counseling to improve
No studies have evaluated the optimal treatment of diabetic patients
with established eating disorders. Presumably, strategies that are
effective for patients without diabetes, such as cognitive behavioral
therapy and medications, will be effective. In addition, diabetic
management strategies that do not require the patient to constantly
think about food may be beneficial.
|Gobel-Fabbri AE et al. Disturbed eating behaviors
and eating disorders in type 1 diabetes: clinical significance and
treatment recommendations. Curr Diab Rep. 2009 Apr;9(2):1339.
- Binge eating disorder consists of episodes
of eating a large amount of food in a discreet period of time with
a sense of lack of control.
- Binge episodes characterized by at least three
of the following:
- Eating large amounts of food when not feeling hungry.
- Eating more rapidly than normal.
- Eating until feeling uncomfortably full.
- Eating alone because of embarrassment about the
amount of food consumed.
- Feeling disgusted, depressed, or guilty after eating.
- Episodes occur at least two times a week for at
least 6 months.
- No compensatory behavior (purging, fasting, or
excessive exercise) after eating.
Binge eating disorder is more common than either anorexia nervosa
or bulimia nervosa, but it is currently not recognized as a psychiatric
diagnosis. Currently, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV) has criteria that are considered
research criteria. Individuals who meet these criteria are defined
as having eating disorder, not otherwise specified.
Binge eating disorder is much more common in women and is associated
with obesity, although not all individuals with binge eating disorder
are obese. Obesity-related complications are likely to occur, and
the disorder may be more common in weight cycling patients.
The patient may present with weight gain or may describe disordered
eating patterns and binge eating episodes. There are no specific
laboratory findings for binge eating disorder.
The main differential diagnosis includes other psychiatric and
eating disorders. Other diagnostic possibilities include hypothyroidism
and Prader-Willi syndrome.
Treatment goals focus on decreasing the patient’s binge eating episodes and may include weight loss and treatment of other psychiatric comorbidities. As in bulimia nervosa, cognitive behavioral therapy is the mainstay of treatment. Interpersonal therapy has also been shown to be effective. Pharmacotherapy with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors is also helpful, but does not appear to be better than cognitive behavioral therapy.
|National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. Eating
disorders: core interventions in the treatment and management of
anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and related eating disorders. http://www.nice.org.uk/CG009
|Vocks S et al. Meta-analysis of the effectiveness of psychological
and pharmacological treatments for binge eating disorder. Int J
Eat Disord. 2010 Apr;43(3):20517.
|Wilson GT et al. Psychological treatments of binge eating disorder.
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010 Jan;67(1):94101.
Sexual health is defined by the World Health Organization as a state of physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality. Healthy sexual functioning therefore depends on a complex interplay of physical, psychological, and societal factors. In the United States, sexual dysfunction is common, with more than 44% of surveyed women reporting a sexual problem and 12% experiencing distress from the problem. Six female sexual disorders have been identified in the DSM-IV and include hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), sexual aversion disorder, female sexual arousal disorder, female orgasmic disorder, dyspareunia, and vaginismus; these are discussed in detail in Chapters 18: Gynecologic Disorders and 25: Psychiatric Disorders. Notably, HSDD is most prevalent in middle-aged women. Several psychological and biological risk factors can contribute to female sexual dysfunction, including poor mental health, relationship difficulties, and hormonal changes that are associated with aging. In contrast, positive feelings about the partner and the relationship can be “protective.” Physicians should routinely assess patients’ sexual health during office visits; even a brief assessment provides patients with reassurance that this is an important topic. Providers can broach the subject using a broad question, such as “What concerns or questions do you have about your sexual functioning?” and then follow-up with more specific questions, including “Do you have difficulty with desire, arousal, or orgasm?” and “If you are not currently sexual, are there any particular problems that are contributing to your lack of sexual behavior?” Patient concerns can then be delineated more fully during the complete sexual assessment, which encompasses details about medical, surgical, and psychiatric problems, as well as medications and reproductive history. Treatment options depend on the diagnosed disorder and can include psychosexual and hormonal therapy (see Chapter 18: Gynecologic Disorders).
- Noncyclic pain.
- Duration of 6 months or more.
- Localized to anatomic pelvis, anterior abdominal wall at or
below the umbilicus, the lumbosacral back, or buttocks.
- Associated with functional disability.
Chronic pelvic pain is defined as noncyclic pain lasting at least
6 months that localizes to one of the following areas: the anatomic
pelvis, the anterior abdominal wall at or below the umbilicus, the
lumbosacral back, or the buttocks. It must be of sufficient severity
to cause functional disability or necessitate medical care. Endometriosis
is diagnosed in up to two-thirds of women with chronic pelvic pain;
other common etiologies include postoperative pelvic adhesions,
pelvic varices, interstitial cystitis (IC), and irritable bowel
syndrome (IBS). Musculoskeletal disorders such as fibromyalgia and
levator ani syndrome have also been linked to chronic pelvic pain. Women
with a history of physical and sexual abuse, pelvic inflammatory
disease, abdominopelvic surgery, or difficult obstetric deliveries
are at increased risk for developing chronic pelvic pain.
Certain features of the history and physical examination can
provide clues to the underlying diagnosis. Patients should be asked
about the location, quality, and intensity of their pain as well
as the relationship with the menstrual cycle, sexual activity, urination,
and defecation. Endometriosis, IC, and IBS may all worsen with hormonal
changes, resulting in more pain during menses. Dysmenorrhea and
dyspareunia are often experienced by patients with endometriosis,
whereas dysuria, urgency, and frequency in association with pelvic
pain are characteristic of IC. Pain related to pelvic varices is
usually postural, worsening with prolonged standing and improving
with leg elevation. Patients with IBS often report abdominal pain,
distention, and diarrhea or constipation. The physical examination,
including the pelvic examination, is usually quite painful in the
patient with chronic pelvic pain and should be done carefully. A
single-digit internal vaginal examination should be done to localize
the exact area of pain and to assess for trigger points along the
pelvic floor muscles, which may indicate a musculoskeletal etiology
for the pain. Tenderness with palpation of the anterior vaginal
wall is consistent with IC, whereas discomfort with palpation of
the cervix is suggestive of endometriosis or chronic pelvic infection.
Women with pelvic congestion related to varices may have significant
uterine tenderness. The external genitalia should also be examined
carefully to identify areas of vulvar discomfort because vulvodynia
often coexists in patients with chronic pelvic pain. Notably, the
absence of physical examination findings does not rule out significant
Laboratory studies are useful if the history and physical examination
do not identify an underlying cause for the pelvic pain. Laboratory
tests can include a complete blood count, serum chemistry, erythrocyte
sedimentation rate, urine microscopy and culture, and vaginal swabs
for detecting chlamydia and gonorrhea.
Testing and Imaging
Pelvic ultrasonography is useful for investigating any abnormalities
detected on physical examination, for screening patients in whom
pelvic varices are suspected, and for providing reassurance to the
patient if the ultrasound is normal. Additional testing may be done
to confirm a suspected diagnosis. Patients with IC often have a
positive intravesical potassium chloride test or abnormalities detected
on cystoscopy. Laparoscopy may be helpful for diagnosing endometriosis
or pelvic adhesions, although 40% of diagnostic laparoscopies
are normal in patients with chronic pelvic pain.
Chronic pelvic pain is frequently a manifestation of another
disease, as noted above. The history, physical examination, and
diagnostic testing should be directed toward identifying patients
with the most common "benign" underlying conditions,
including endometriosis, pelvic adhesions, pelvic varices, IC, and
IBS. Clinicians should be aware that patients frequently have more
than one diagnosis contributing to the chronic pelvic pain syndrome.
Less common but serious causes of chronic pelvic pain should also
be considered in the differential diagnosis, including bladder malignancy,
colon cancer, endometrial cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Accordingly, symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, hematochezia,
and abnormal vaginal bleeding should be investigated thoroughly.
Many patients have no clear pathologic basis for their symptoms,
and are thus diagnosed with idiopathic chronic pelvic pain.
Medical treatment may focus on managing the chronic pain, the
underlying condition, or both. Analgesics are commonly used, and
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as diclofenac
and naproxen, are typically helpful. However, patients and clinicians
should be cautious about long-term use of these medications because
long-term NSAID therapy can be associated with significant gastric
toxicity. Antidepressants (eg, amitriptyline) and antiseizure medications
(eg, gabapentin) (see Table 55), which have demonstrated
efficacy in the treatment of other pain syndromes, may also be useful
for chronic pelvic pain. Opioid therapy improves pain but not functional
or psychological outcomes and should generally be avoided.
Hormonal therapies are used primarily for treating gynecologic
sources of chronic pelvic pain. Women with endometriosis often benefit
from treatment with combined oral contraceptive pills, which suppress
ovulation and reduce dysmenorrhea. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone
(GnRH) agonists and progestins improve pain associated with endometriosis
and pelvic varices. The decrease in BMD associated with GnRH agonist
treatment can be mitigated with estrogen or progesterone add-back
therapy. Patients in whom endometriosis is suspected may also be
treated with GnRH agonist therapy; improvement in symptoms may allow
such patients to avoid laparoscopy.
Medical therapies directed at the treatment of nongynecologic
sources of chronic pelvic pain, including IC and IBS, are discussed
in Chapters 15: Gastrointestinal Disorders and 23: Urologic Disorders. Notably, pelvic pain associated with IC and
IBS frequently varies with the menstrual cycle, and GnRH agonist
therapy may be helpful for treatment in these disorders as well.
Physical therapy and injection of identified trigger points provide
significant pain relief in patients with musculoskeletal sources
of pain. Sacral nerve stimulation has been used in patients with
IC but may also be effective in up to 60% of women with
chronic pelvic pain but without urinary symptoms. Psychological
evaluation and treatment should also be strongly considered in all patients,
both to improve treatment outcomes (particularly in patients with
pelvic varices) as well as to address a history of sexual or physical
Surgical treatment of chronic pelvic pain requires referral to
a gynecologist. Surgical therapies that treat the pain itself include
presacral neurectomy and laparoscopic uterosacral nerve ablation. These
denervating interventions are typically used in the treatment of
patients with severe dysmenorrhea. Condition-specific surgical treatments
include adhesiolysis in patients with pelvic adhesions and laparoscopic
surgical destruction of implants in patients with endometriosis. Importantly,
the efficacy of adhesiolysis in the treatment of chronic pelvic
pain is controversial. Hysterectomy can be effective for relieving
chronic pelvic pain and may also result in improved psychological
and sexual outcomes.
Cohort studies provide some information on the prognosis of women
who undergo hysterectomy as definitive treatment for chronic pelvic
pain. In a comparative study of women with chronic pelvic pain,
abnormal uterine bleeding, or leiomyomas, women who had a hysterectomy
experienced significant improvement in symptoms compared with those
treated medically after 1 year. However, among younger patients
with chronic pelvic pain who do not have obvious anatomic pathology,
the benefits of surgery are less clear, and up to 40% of
patients may still have persistent pain after hysterectomy.
When to Refer
Patients should be referred to a gynecologist for diagnostic
or therapeutic surgical procedures, if the underlying diagnosis
is unclear, or if the provider feels uncomfortable managing side
effects associated with medical treatments (ie, GnRH agonist therapy).
|American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
(ACOG). ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 51. Chronic pelvic pain. Obstet
Gynecol. 2004 Mar;103(3):589605.
|Daniels JP et al. Chronic pelvic pain in women. BMJ. 2010 Oct
|Vercellini P et al. Chronic pelvic pain in women: etiology,
pathogenesis, and diagnostic approach. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2009
|Vercellini P et al. Medical, surgical, and alternative treatments
for chronic pelvic pain in women: a descriptive review. Gynecol
Endocrinol. 2009 Apr;25(4):20821.
- Infection, malignancy, and extramammary conditions can
cause breast pain.
- Benign mastalgia is diagnosed once other causes of breast
pain have been excluded and is characterized as cyclical or noncyclical.
- Abnormal physical examination findings, such as a breast mass
or skin abnormalities, should prompt radiographic imaging.
Breast pain, or mastalgia, is categorized as cyclical, noncyclical, or extramammary. Although minor breast discomfort is commonly associated with the normal menstrual cycle, women with cyclical mastalgia typically have moderate to severe pain that can last more than 5 days. Cyclical mastalgia can be diagnosed only in reproductive-age women who experience breast pain as a result of the hormonally-mediated proliferation in breast tissue that occurs with ovulation. In contrast, noncyclical mastalgia has no relationship to the menstrual cycle and can occur in premenopausal or postmenopausal women. Causes of noncyclical mastalgia include large breast size (with stretching of Cooper ligaments), medications, pregnancy, thrombophlebitis, or inflammatory breast cancer. Extramammary mastalgia is caused by pain that is referred from other anatomic locations, including the chest wall, heart, gallbladder, or spine. Trauma or previous surgery may also produce extramammary pain.
Cyclical mastalgia is often described as a deep, heavy, aching pain, which is typically diffuse and bilateral and is clearly associated with the menstrual cycle. Conversely, noncyclical pain, which may be constant or intermittent, is often well localized and can involve one or both breasts. Chest wall pain, a frequent cause of extramammary mastalgia, typically causes unilateral, burning pain that may be either localized or diffuse. Malignancy-associated mastalgia is often severe, progressive, and unilateral.
Breast cancer may be associated with mastalgia, and thus a careful physical examination is essential in all women who report breast pain. Large, pendulous breasts may be observed in women who have noncyclical pain caused by stretching of Cooper ligaments. Chest wall pain is usually related to inflammation or injury to the pectoralis major muscle; it may be reproduced by palpation or by having the patient place her hand on her hip and push inward. Any palpable breast mass must be evaluated further with radiologic imaging.
An ultrasound or mammogram or both should be obtained in women who have a palpable breast mass. Clinicians should also ensure that patients with mastalgia are up to date on routine screening mammography, as appropriate for their age and personal risk factors.
Malignancy must be ruled out in all patients with mastalgia, and this is usually accomplished through a careful history, physical examination, and diagnostic imaging in patients with clinical abnormalities, such as a palpable breast mass. Extramammary causes of breast pain include chest wall pain, spinal or gallbladder disease, and myocardial ischemia. Cyclical and noncyclical mastalgia are easily differentiated by assessing the temporal relationship between the patient’s pain and her menstrual cycle.
Women with cyclical mastalgia who have a normal physical examination and are up to date on routine mammographic screening should be reassured about the benign nature of their symptoms and monitored closely. Cyclical and noncyclical mastalgia often improve with use of a supportive bra. Although there is conflicting evidence regarding the benefit of vitamin E, some experts advocate its use (at a dose of 2000–3000 mg daily) for women with cyclical breast pain. Topical NSAIDs, such as diclofenac gel, improve localized breast pain.
Women who experience severe and persistent cyclical mastalgia despite adherence to conservative measures may be offered hormonal treatment. Commonly used hormonal therapies for cyclical mastalgia include danazol, bromocriptine, and tamoxifen. Danazol, a synthetic androgen that inhibits ovulation, is the only medication that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of cyclical mastalgia. However, side effects associated with treatment are common and include weight gain, menstrual irregularities, voice deepening, and hot flashes. Similarly, in a study of patients with cyclical mastalgia who were treated with bromocriptine, 40% of patients experienced adverse reactions, including nausea, dizziness, and headache. Tamoxifen therapy is tolerated well by most women, and many experts recommend it as first-line therapy for the treatment of cyclical mastalgia. Patients treated with tamoxifen should be counseled about the possibility of hot flashes and menstrual irregularities (experienced by up to 10% of women), as well as the risk for more serious adverse events, such as thromboembolic disease and endometrial cancer.
Symptoms of cyclical and noncyclical mastalgia improve without
pharmacologic treatment in most women. In addition, most women with
cyclical mastalgia have resolution of their pain with menopause.
Observational studies examining the association between cyclical
mastalgia and the subsequent development of breast cancer have produced
conflicting results. Two case-control studies suggested an increased
risk of breast cancer, while a third observational study suggested
a decreased risk. Based on this evidence, guidelines indicate that
all women with mastalgia should have an individual assessment of
their breast cancer risk, and that this should guide subsequent management.
Women in whom mastalgia develops while receiving hormone replacement
therapy may have an increased risk of breast cancer. In a recent
analysis of data from the Women's Health Initiative, women
in whom new-onset breast tenderness developed after initiating treatment
with conjugated equine estrogen plus medroxyprogesterone had a 48% higher
risk of developing breast cancer compared with those who did not
experience breast pain. Thus, women in whom mastalgia develops in
the setting of hormone-replacement therapy should have a thorough
discussion with their clinician regarding the risks and benefits
of continued treatment as well as screening and preventative strategies for breast cancer.
When to Refer
Patients with mastalgia and a palpable breast mass should be
referred to a breast surgeon, even if the results of diagnostic
imaging are normal.
|Crandall CJ et al. New-onset breast tenderness
after initiation of estrogen plus progestin therapy and breast cancer
risk. Arch Intern Med. 2009 Oct 12;169(18):168491.
|Rosolowich V et al; Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
of Canada (SOGC). Mastalgia. J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2006 Jan;28(1):4960.
|Rungruang B et al. Benign breast diseases: epidemiology, evaluation, and management. Clin Obstet Gynecol. 2011 Mar;54(1):110–24.
- Diagnostic imaging is essential for any women with a palpable
dominant breast mass, regardless of her age.
- Ultrasound is the initial test of choice for women under the
age of 30; diagnostic mammography with or without ultrasonography
is performed initially in women over the age of 30.
Palpable breast masses may be detected by a patient on a breast self-examination, or may be identified by the provider during a routine physical examination. Approximately 10% of breast masses are malignant, and thus a thorough work-up of any palpable breast mass is essential, regardless of age and personal risk factors for breast cancer. Common benign causes of palpable breast masses include fibrocystic condition, cysts, and fibroadenomas (see also Chapter 17: Breast Disorders).
Clinicians should ask patients about temporal changes in the mass shape and size, as well as associated symptoms, including pain, skin thickening, and nipple discharge. A patient’s personal risk for breast cancer should be assessed, including age, previous breast biopsies, family history, and age at menarche and first pregnancy.
The location of the mass should be described using the clock-face position and distance from the nipple, as this aids the radiologist in the diagnostic evaluation. Examiners should also note the size, site, mobility, and texture of the mass, as well as areas of skin dimpling, retraction, or erythema. Benign masses are typically mobile with well-defined margins; conversely, malignant lesions may be fixed and have indistinct borders. Some women may have areas of indeterminate thickening in the absence of a discrete and well-defined palpable mass; if this finding is asymmetric it should be evaluated further with diagnostic imaging.
Tests and Imaging
As noted above, all women with a dominant palpable breast mass
require diagnostic imaging. Approved imaging techniques include
diagnostic mammography and ultrasonography. Diagnostic mammography
consists of the standard views that are used in screening mammography,
plus additional views, such as spot-compression and magnification,
to better delineate the area of concern. The breast ultrasound is
the most sensitive test for distinguishing a cystic from a solid lesion,
and also provides detailed information regarding the shape, borders,
and acoustic properties of an identified mass. In addition, ultrasonography
can be used to guide the biopsy of suspicious lesions.
Women over the age of 30 with a palpable breast mass should initially
be evaluated with diagnostic mammography. Features of a benign lesion
include a round shape with well-circumscribed borders; a suspicious
finding may have an irregular shape with spiculated margins. Ultrasonography
may be coupled with diagnostic mammography if the mass is mammographically
occult or has concerning mammographic features. For women under
the age of 30, ultrasonography is the initial diagnostic test of
choice because the dense breast tissue found in younger women limits
the sensitivity of mammography. Abnormal findings on ultrasound
include posterior acoustic shadowing, microlobulations, and a spiculated
margin. A mass which has a thin, echogenic capsule, an ellipsoid
shape, and homogenous echogenicity is more likely to be benign.
In women who are pregnant, ultrasonography is the initial diagnostic
test of choice; the sensitivity of mammography is limited by the
loss of contrasting fatty tissue in the breast during pregnancy. Fine-needle
aspiration (FNA) biopsy does not have the same accuracy in pregnant
women as a result of the increased cellularity of the breast tissue,
and breast biopsy may be technically difficult because of increased
breast vascularity. Surgical consultation should be obtained to evaluate persistent
areas of concern that are identified on clinical breast examination
The differential diagnosis of palpable masses includes benign etiologies, such as cysts, fibroadenomas, fibrocystic condition, lymph nodes, galactoceles, lipomas, and hematomas. Breast cancer, including ductal carcinoma in situ, invasive lobular carcinoma, and invasive ductal carcinoma, can also initially present with a palpable breast mass. Certain history and physical examination features may be suggestive of a particular diagnosis. Cysts are fluid-filled structures that are commonly found in women aged 35–50 years; acute enlargement of the cysts may cause abrupt and severe pain. Fibroadenomas are typically diagnosed in reproductive age women between the ages of 15 and 35 years and present as firm, nontender, and mobile masses on physical examination. Fibrocystic condition describes a pathologic diagnosis that may be accompanied by clinical symptoms and signs, including cyclical pain that is bilateral and poorly localized as well as tender, multifocal nodules. These fibrocystic changes, which include macrocysts, microcysts, fibrosis, and ductal hyperplasia, are most common among premenopausal women.
Management of the palpable breast mass depends on the results of diagnostic imaging. If ultrasonography or mammography suggests that the mass is related to a simple cyst, fine-needle aspiration (FNA) may be offered to symptomatic women to relieve associated pain. Characteristics of the aspirated fluid guides further work-up. If benign fluid, which is typically yellow, straw-colored, green, or brown, is aspirated and the mass resolves, the patient can be monitored expectantly. Conversely, if bloody fluid is aspirated, or if the mass persists after aspiration, further intervention with either core biopsy or excision may be indicated. A complex cyst should always be aspirated because there is a small chance (0.4%) that it may be malignant.
Core-needle biopsy, which provides a sample of tissue for histologic diagnosis, is typically used to evaluate breast masses that have a suspicious appearance on diagnostic imaging. Ultrasonography, mammography, or MRI may be used to guide the biopsy, thereby resulting in few complications and minimal trauma to the breast tissue. Excisional biopsy may be necessary if the mass is not amenable to core-needle biopsy (because of location or imaging characteristics) or if additional tissue is needed to confirm a benign diagnosis.
Women who have palpable masses that are associated with normal ultrasound or mammographic imaging should be referred to a breast surgeon, with consideration given to performing a diagnostic core-needle biopsy. Benign biopsy results are reassuring but require close clinical follow-up for at least 1–2 years.
The radiologist may categorize certain breast masses as probably benign after review of ultrasound or mammographic images. In rare cases, these masses may be associated with malignancy, and so two diagnostic options may be considered. The patient may opt to forgo biopsy at that time and have imaging performed again in 6 months. Alternatively, diagnostic core excisional biopsy may be performed immediately (after consultation with a breast surgeon) if there are worrisome findings on physical examination or if there is a high clinical suspicion for malignancy. All masses categorized as probably benign require follow-up imaging at 6-month intervals for at least 2 years.
The “triple test,” which is composed of the findings on physical examination, the results of diagnostic imaging, and the pathologic diagnosis obtained from FNA or core-needle biopsy, helps clinicians determine the likelihood that a palpable breast mass is malignant. In all cases, the results of each of these tests should be concordant. For example, the diagnostic imaging should identify the palpable area of concern, and if benign features are noted, the results of the FNA biopsy or core-needle biopsy should confirm a benign diagnosis, such as a fibroadenoma. If the results of any of the tests are discordant, further evaluation is warranted. Thus, if the results of FNA biopsy or core-needle biopsy suggest a benign diagnosis, but the radiographic imaging indicates a suspicious lesion, it may be appropriate to repeat the biopsy or perform an excisional biopsy. Similarly, if there is a palpable breast mass that is not identified on radiographic imaging, referral to a breast surgeon is necessary to document resolution or persistence of the mass. If the mass is persistent, the surgeon may elect to perform a biopsy to obtain a definitive diagnosis.
In general, the benign causes of a palpable breast mass have a favorable prognosis. Many women with breast pain and palpable masses due to fibrocystic condition have spontaneous resolution or have improvement in their symptoms with menopause. Benign simple cysts that are asymptomatic may be followed clinically, and symptomatic cysts should resolve with aspiration.
Certain pathologic diagnoses increase the risk of breast cancer,
including papillary lesions, radial scars, atypical ductal or lobular
hyperplasia, and lobular carcinoma in situ. FNA biopsy or core-needle
biopsy results that indicate one of these diagnoses necessitate
referral to a breast surgeon for further evaluation and management.
When to Refer
- Women with a palpable breast mass should be
referred to a breast surgeon in the following situations:
- If diagnostic imaging indicates that the mass has suspicious features.
- If the mass persists and diagnostic imaging is normal.
- If the mass is categorized as probably benign on diagnostic imaging, but there are worrisome features on physical examination or there is a high clinical suspicion for malignancy.
- If diagnostic imaging demonstrates a complex cyst, or aspiration of a simple cyst reveals a bloody aspirate.
- If the biopsy demonstrates a lesion with an increased
risk of breast cancer (papillary lesions, radial scars, atypical
hyperplasia, lobular carcinoma in situ).
- If the biopsy results are discordant with the
physical examination and radiographic findings.
- It may also be prudent to refer pregnant women
with a palpable breast mass to a breast surgeon, because of the
limitations noted above with radiographic imaging and biopsy.
|Pearlman MD et al. Benign breast disease. Obstet Gynecol. 2010 Sep;116(3):747–58.
|Rungruang B et al. Benign breast diseases: epidemiology, evaluation, and management. Clin Obstet Gynecol. 2011 Mar;54(1):110–24.
|Stein L et al. The radiologic workup of a palpable breast mass.
Cleve Clin J Med. 2009 Mar;76(3):17580.
Nipple discharge is a common breast complaint but is rarely indicative
of malignancy. In one retrospective study, invasive breast cancer
was subsequently diagnosed in only 5% of women in whom
nipple discharge was the presenting symptom. Nipple discharge that
comes from multiple ducts, is bilateral, and is produced only with
squeezing is considered physiologic, and no further work-up is necessary.
Milky discharge that is bilateral and spontaneous is consistent
with galactorrhea caused by an elevated prolactin level. Investigation
should focus on identifying the underlying causes of the hyperprolactinemia,
including pregnancy, pituitary tumors, and certain medications.
Women who have bloody discharge or persistent spontaneous unilateral
discharge from a single duct, should be referred for mammography
and surgical consultation. These features are suggestive of a pathologic
diagnosis, such as papilloma, duct ectasia, or malignancy. In addition,
the presence of a palpable breast mass in association with the nipple
discharge significantly increases the likelihood of underlying malignancy.
Surgical excision of the involved duct is the gold standard for
diagnosis. See also Chapter 17: Breast Disorders.
|Dolan RT et al. Nipple discharge and the efficacy
of duct cytology in establishing breast cancer risk. Surgeon. 2010
|Rungruang B et al. Benign breast diseases: epidemiology, evaluation, and management. Clin Obstet Gynecol. 2011 Mar;54(1):110–24.
Androgenetic alopecia, also known as female pattern hair loss,
is the most common cause of alopecia in women; up to 50% of
females will be affected in their lifetime. This type of alopecia
is mediated by the effects of androgen on the hair follicle and
is characterized by shortening of the anagen (growth) phase and
follicle miniaturization. Clinically, presenting signs include diffuse thinning
over the central scalp and a prominent midline part; the frontal
hairline is typically preserved. Although serum androgen levels
are typically normal, androgen excess disorders can present with
female pattern hair loss. If irregular menses, hirsutism, or acne
accompany the female pattern hair loss, the patient should be evaluated
for an underlying hyperandrogenic condition with measurements of
total and free testosterone, prolactin, and dehydroepiandrosterone.
Topical minoxidil is currently the only medication that has been
approved by the FDA for the treatment of female pattern hair loss.
Randomized trials have confirmed the efficacy of this therapy, compared
with placebo, for inducing minimal to moderate hair regrowth in
the majority of treated women (NNT = 8). In patients with
suspected female pattern hair loss, minoxidil 2% is applied
directly onto the scalp twice daily while symptoms persist. The
most common side effect of minoxidil is facial hypertrichosis, which
can affect 35% of women, but this typically resolves after
1 year of treatment. In women who have excess androgen levels, the
addition of spironolactone (an anti-androgen) to minoxidil treatment
may result in additional clinical benefit. Similarly, an oral contraceptive
pill containing drosperinone, which is a spironolactone analogue,
is an appropriate choice in women desiring hormonal contraception.
|Harrison S et al. Diffuse hair loss: its triggers
and management. Cleve Clin J Med. 2009 Jun;76(6):3617.
|Mounsey AL et al. Diagnosing and treating hair loss. Am Fam
Physician. 2009 Aug 15;80(4):35662, 3734.
Varicose veins result from weakness in the vein wall and may involve obstruction to, or reversal of, normal blood flow. Approximately 30–40% of women are affected, and the clinical presentation ranges from asymptomatic to severe, with lower extremity pain, swelling, and nocturnal cramps. Medical complications can include venous ulceration, abnormal skin pigmentation, and eczema.
Treatment may be considered to relieve symptoms or for cosmetic purposes. Conservative therapy is generally recommended for asymptomatic patients or those who experience only mild to moderate discomfort. The principle behind conservative therapy is to limit disease progression: weight loss and physical exercise will improve circulation, and avoidance of prolonged standing will reduce the pressure on affected valves. Compression stockings improve venous hemodynamics and reduce symptoms of pain and swelling.
Invasive therapy may be indicated to treat patients with more severe symptoms, or those who desire significant cosmetic results. The gold standard for treating varicose veins is surgical ligation and vein stripping. If the greater saphenous vein is involved, both ligation and stripping are typically performed; smaller saphenous veins may be treated only with ligation. Surgical techniques are effective in the short-term, but recurrence is common, ranging from 30% to 50% after 5 years. Moreover, patients who receive surgical therapy are exposed to the risks of general or epidural anesthesia and may experience postoperative pain and neurologic damage.
Minimally invasive techniques for treating varicose veins have been increasing in popularity and are often associated with faster recovery times and fewer complications when compared with surgical treatment. Currently available therapies include ultrasound-guided foam sclerotherapy (UGFS), radiofrequency ablation (RFA), and endovenous laser ablation (EVLA). Sclerotherapy is usually done in the ambulatory setting and involves injecting a chemical through a catheter into the abnormal vein to induce scarring and collapse. UGFS mixes air or gas with the sclerosing substance to produce foam, which allows for coverage of a larger surface area. Injection sclerotherapy is most beneficial for small and medium-size veins; rare complications include embolization of foam to the brain or retina. RFA and EVLA both use the principles of thermolysis to selectively induce vessel-wall damage and collapse. Laser (EVLA) or radiofrequency (RFA) energy is used to generate a heated fiber, which is inserted into the abnormal vein and slowly advanced along its length. Endothelial and vessel wall damage results, with contraction of the vein wall and ultimate collapse of the entire vessel. A minority of patients may experience local bruising, tenderness, or paresthesias as a result of these procedures.
Meta-analysis evaluating the efficacy of each of these techniques
compared with surgical intervention demonstrated that success rates,
as measured by complete obliteration of the vessel at 5 years, were
highest for EVLA and RFA (95.4 % and 79.9%, respectively)
and were similar for UGFS and surgery (73.5% and 75.7% respectively).
Moreover, the efficacy of RFA, UGFS, and surgery declined substantially
over time, but remained relatively constant for EVLA. The authors of
this study concluded that EVLA was the most effective of the minimally
invasive techniques and was associated with fewer side effects and
faster improvement in health-related quality of life when compared
with surgical therapy. However, more studies that directly compare
these methods to each other are needed.
|Leopardi D et al. Systematic review of treatments for varicose
veins. Ann Vasc Surg. 2009 Mar;23(2):26476.
|Raju S et al. Clinical practice. Chronic venous insufficiency
and varicose veins. N Engl J Med. 2009 May 28;360(22):231927.
|Van den Bos R et al. Endovenous therapies of lower extremity
varicosities: a meta-analysis. J Vasc Surg. 2009 Jan;49(1):2309.
Minimally invasive aesthetic procedures are now commonly used to treat mild to moderate age-related changes in the face. These procedures are generally safe and are associated with high rates of patient satisfaction. In 2008, more than 80% of aesthetic plastic surgery treatments involved minimally invasive techniques. Thus, primary care clinicians should be familiar with the efficacy and safety of these treatment modalities in order to best counsel their patients.
Visible signs of aging in the face result from loss of subcutaneous fat, gravitational changes, and alterations in skin elasticity. Various areas of the face respond differently to each of these changes and at different times. In the upper one-third of the face, hyperdynamic wrinkles, manifested as frown lines, crow’s feet, and horizontal forehead lines, typically develop as a result of repetitive muscle contraction. Conversely, volume changes are more prominent in the mid-face, as gravitational descent of the malar fat pad and volume loss leads to deepening of the nasolabial folds. Changes in the lower one-third of the face are characterized both by hyperdynamic changes resulting in deep furrows and lines, as well as flattening and loss of fullness in the lips.
Clostridium botulinum is an organism that produces potent neurotoxins with various serotypes, ranging from A to G. These serotypes vary in both their mechanism of action and clinical use, and only serotype A is used for cosmetic purposes. Botox and Dysport are two formulations of botulinum serotype A that the FDA has approved for treating hyperactivity of the glabellar muscles, which produces frown lines. Both of these products work by inhibiting the release of acetylcholine at the neuromuscular junction, thereby resulting in a chemical denervation and an overall relaxation of hyperdynamic facial muscles. Botox and Dysport are also commonly used off-label to treat horizontal frown lines and crow’s feet, as the restriction of muscular movement in these areas also reduces the appearance of fine wrinkles. The onset of action of these treatments is immediate, and results typically last 3–4 months. In one study, only 5% of studied patients who had been treated with Botox experienced adverse effects, the most common of which was local bruising.
Whereas Botox and Dysport are the treatments of choice in the upper one-third of the face to treat fine wrinkles, dermal fillers are commonly used in the mid- and lower face to restore volume and fullness. Several filler substances are currently used, including collagen, hydroxylapatite, hyaluronic acid, and injectable poly-L-lactic acid. Among these, hyaluronic acid fillers have become increasingly popular and have been approved by the FDA for treatment of nasolabial folds. They are also frequently used off-label to volumize and shape the lips. Several formulations are currently available, and they differ in their degree of cross-linking, gel hardness, and ability to resist dilution. Clinically, these differences result in various degrees of longevity, with the effects of Restylane and Perlane lasting approximately 6 months, and the effects of Juvederm Ultra and Juvederm Ultra Plus lasting approximately 12 months. The effects of injection are immediately apparent, and complications are typically mild and local, including bruising, redness, and swelling. If necessary, the injection of hyaluronidase can reverse any significant adverse effects. Notably, the clinical improvement associated with hyaluronic acid injections seems to be closely associated with the expertise of the practitioner.
Combination therapy with botulinum toxin and hyaluronic acid
is now commonly being used to achieve more satisfying cosmetic results.
However, serious complications can result from the injection of
hyaluronic acids in the upper face, including skin necrosis, which
occurs when the injection inadvertently involves a blood vessel.
A thorough knowledge of the anatomy in this area is essential for
avoiding this adverse event. Similarly, only experienced practitioners
should use botulinum toxin in the lower face, to avoid the drooling,
speech problems, and mouth incompetence that result from over-injection
or misplaced treatment.
|Berbos ZJ et al. Update on botulinum toxin and dermal fillers. Curr Opin Opthalmol. 2010 Sep;21(5):387–95.
|Small R. Aesthetic procedures in office practice. Am Fam Physician.
2009 Dec 1;80(11):12317.
|Wollina U et al. Aging wellthe role of minimally invasive aesthetic dermatological procedures in women over 65. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2010 Mar;9(1):50–8. [PMID: 20367673]|