Last week, we covered key myths and facts related to PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), which affects 10-15% of women of reproductive age. Yet according to PCOS Challenge, The National Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Association, only 50% of women are properly diagnosed. However, given the complexity of PCOS, treatment is just as important as the diagnosis given the co-morbid conditions one can present with.
Georgie spoke with Dr. Marcelle Cedars, Director, Center for Reproductive Health, at the UCSF Center for Reproductive Health, which created a PCOS Clinic to support women via a cross-disciplinary team.
The rationale for the center’s multi-disciplinary approach is that women with PCOS have both reproductive, dermatologic and metabolic problems. The vision behind the PCOS Clinic was to create a system in which multiple providers and services could deliver comprehensive and integrated care to women with PCOS. Ultimately, with the proper funding in place, the goal was replicate the model with clinics for other reproductive issues such as recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL) and menopause. Team-based models have been demonstrated to improve effectiveness of patient care, as echoed by Dr. Zev Williams of the Columbia Fertility Center.
By creating a center focused on PCOS, specifically, UCSF has been able to both provide women better education and serve as a center for research.
A Multi-Disciplinary Team
When asked how the PCOS Clinic operates, Dr. Cedars stated that, “Everyone sees a REI, Dermatologist, Psychologist Geneticist and Nutritionist. Then, if required for a given patient, referrals are made to proper sub-specialist such as a Lipid Specialist, Endocrinologist, or liver specialist .” The PCOS clinic currently does not have an acupuncturist but one recently joined UCSF and is interested in PCOS. However, it is unclear if the acupuncturist will see every patient. Do you want me to bring this up or change how it is addressed?
While not all clinicians offer a holistic approach directly in-office, it is important to understand the foundation of support required to be support PCOS patients. Thus, if one is not living in the San Francisco Bay Area, work with your local clinician to ensure the right team is behind you, specifically a Dermatologist, Psychologist, and Nutritionist.
UCSF currently has over 800 women who’ve agreed to participate in its research studies over the past ten years. UCSF has a PCOS Cohort - women who have been followed over time and asked to participate in a variety of research studies. The participation in research studies by women with PCOS has helped move the field forward towards an improved understanding of POCS.
Co-morbidities Associated with PCOS
Women with PCOS suffer from a combination of health concerns that can ultimately lead to obesity, depression, heart disease, long-term metabolic risks like diabetes, and infertility. Additionally, they are at increased risk of endometriosis, hyperplasia, and uterine cancer.
Also, one can feel quite ashamed of PCOS’ cosmetic impacts such as hair loss or fear loss of one’s future fertility.
Remember, with a proper workup, PCOS can be diagnosed and properly treated. Given the impact of not finding proper care, it further emphasizes why it is so important to be proactive and find the right clinician.