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What to do about heavy menstrual bleeding

Fear, embarrassment or an assumption that heavy bleeding is normal prevents many women from seeking help for menorrhagia, the medical term for menstrual bleeding that is heavy or prolonged.

"The problem is, it's very subjectively defined," says Dr. James Alexander, a Skaneateles gynecologist who has chosen Upstate University Hospital at Community General's Birth Center for labor and delivery services. He says many women are surprised to learn that a normal menstrual cycle produces about 5 tablespoons of blood. "It's really a small amount of bleeding, normally."

Menorrhagia is not a diagnosis but a symptom that could signal structural problems such as polyps, a uterine infection, clotting or bleeding disorder or cancerous condition. Determining the cause of heavy bleeding includes a complete history and physical and might involve a biopsy or use of ultrasound. Treatments range from anti-inflammatory medication to surgery.

Listen to Dr. Alexander's interview on Health Link on Air radio, airing at 9 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 13 on FM Newsradio 106.9 / AM 570 WSYR.