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Birth Control Methods Myths and Facts

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Written by Adella Brown

As an OB/GYN health educator at Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, much of what I do is help women understand the benefits of pregnancy planning and birth control options.  When it comes to choosing a birth control method, many women are afraid of using hormonal methods or methods that need to be inserted into the body. Here are the most common myths women have brought up during our encounters, and what the facts are.

Myth: Women need to have menstrual period regularly to remove toxins from the body. It is harmful to use birth control methods that may stop one’s period.

Fact: While having regular menstrual period is an indicator of reproductive health for women, using birth control methods to stop having periods is harmless. In fact, women who have more than the average menstrual cycles in their lifetime are more likely to suffer from ovarian cancer and uterine diseases. The use of hormonal birth control methods is shown to lower risks of these diseases and relieve the symptoms of uterine fibroids and endometriosis.


Myth: Birth control pills will lead to weight gain.

Fact: Many studies showed that birth control pills rarely cause weight gain. When weight gain does happen, it is usually due to fluid retention and goes away within 2 to 3 months, along with other side effects.


Myth: The hormones in birth control can increase risk of getting breast cancer.

Fact: Most studies have shown that hormonal birth control use is not associated with increased risk of breast cancer. Also, women who have used these methods over many years have lowered rates of ovarian and uterine cancer. Discuss your health history with a healthcare provider to decide if hormonal birth control methods are right for you.


Myth: Fertility awareness is effective in preventing pregnancy and has no side effects.

Fact: 12-24% of women will get pregnant in a year using fertility awareness method.  Many factors, such as stress and changes in diet or lifestyle, can change a woman’s menstrual cycle, making ovulation hard to predict. Although other birth control methods may have side effects, they are usually temporary and mild. An unplanned pregnancy will have more impact on your health and lifestyle.


Myth: Use of IUD increases the risk of getting uterine injuries or gynecological infections.

Fact: Some types of IUD were known to have caused uterine injuries and gynecological infections. However, IUDs currently available in the U.S., such as progestin IUDs (Mirena, Skyla, and Liletta) and non-hormonal IUD (ParaGard) have been extensively tested for safety and effectiveness. Large studies have proven that modern IUDs do not cause gynecological infections.  Keep in mind that women who are at high risk of getting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) should continue to use condoms after IUD insertion.


Myth: Getting an IUD is painful and it will feel weird inside the body.

Fact: IUD insertion is a quick procedure that usually does not require anesthesia. Some women may take pain medicine before the insertion. Some spotting and cramping are common in the first few days following the insertion. After that, most women don’t feel anything in their body. Their partners usually don’t feel the IUD either. If pain or spotting persists or worsens, see your provider for a check-up.


Myth: Using birth control methods may lead to infertility.

Fact: All reversible birth control methods will help prevent pregnancy while you’re using them, but none have long-lasting effects on your ability to get pregnant when you stop. If a woman has difficulty getting pregnant after stopping a birth control method, it may be due to 1) an undiagnosed condition prior to the birth control use; 2) natural decrease in fertility due to older age; or 3) sexually transmitted infections such as Chlamydia and Gonorrhea that can damage the reproductive system.

Trying a new birth control method can be intimidating. Remember, you can stop using these methods if you are not satisfied or change your plan. Come talk to our health educators and providers to learn more about your options. The Charles B. Wang Community Health Center offers comprehensive, high quality primary care services at convenient locations in Manhattan and Queens. The Health Center is open seven days a week and serves all patients regardless of their ability to pay. To learn more about the Health Center’s family planning services, please call (212) 966-0228 (Manhattan), (718) 886-1287 (37th Avenue, Queens) and (929) 362-3006 (45th Avenue, Queens), or by visiting our OB/GYN webpage.

Adella Brown is a Health Educator in the OB/GYN Department at Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. One of her current roles is providing one-on-one reproductive health education. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Neuroscience. She is also a Certified Lactation Counselor and passionately promotes breastfeeding in the Chinese American community.

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Talk to Your Doctor about Colorectal Cancer

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Colorectal cancer affects men and women equally, regardless of race and ethnicity. It is most often found in people who are 50 years old or older. However, there is an increasing rate of colorectal cancer in those who are under 50, because of physical inactivity and an unhealthy diet. It is important for younger adults to start paying attention to their colorectal health.

According to Dr. Robert Andrew Heyding, a physician at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, “Colorectal cancer causes almost one out of every ten cancer deaths in the United States. Fortunately it can be prevented. You can lower your risk by choosing healthy habits and getting regular screening”.

It’s never too early to start living healthy. Here are some good health habits to lower the risk of developing colorectal cancer:

  • Do not smoke – quit smoking and try avoid second hand smoke. Talk to your doctor about smoking cessation resources. Charles B. Wang Community Health Center has bilingual quit smoking resources, you can view those here.
  • Reduce alcoholic drinks – limit to one drink a day or less.
  • Eat a healthy diet – limit high fat or sugary foods, preserved foods, and red meat. Add more fruits and vegetables to your plate.
  • Exercise regularly – walk, jog, swim, or dance. Strive to be active for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
  • Keep a healthy weight – talk to your family doctor about what is a healthy weight for you.

Other than having healthy habits, getting screened is very important to prevent cancer. When detected early, there are more treatment options and fewer complications. The most commonly used screening methods include:

  • A Fecal Occult Blood Test (FBOT) checks for blood in stool. Blood in stool may indicate presence of diseases and a colonoscopy may be needed for a diagnosis.
  • A colonoscopy is a thin, flexible tube with a small camera and light on the end is used to examine the colon. It may also have a tool to remove abnormal tissue to be checked under a microscope for signs of disease.

In general, it is recommended that men and women of average risk levels begin screening at age 50. However, some individuals may need to begin screening earlier, such as those who have family or personal history of colorectal cancer or chronic colorectal diseases, and those who are experiencing symptoms of colorectal diseases, such as persistent abdominal pain or changes in bowel habits for at least two weeks.

Discuss with your primary care doctor about when to start screening, which screening method to use, and how often you should get screened. Also speak to your doctor regarding your risk factors or anything unusual in your body. You can make an appointment to see a primary care provider here at Charles B. Wang Community Health Center by calling (212) 379-6998 for Manhattan, and (718) 886-1200 (37th Ave) or (929) 362-3006 (45th Ave) for Queens.


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Protect Yourself from the Silent Killer – Ovarian Cancer

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Ovarian cancer can happen in one or both of a woman’s ovaries.  It is also known as the “silent killer” because it usually does not cause substantial signs or symptoms until it is too late. Although rare, ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system since it is usually diagnosed at a late stage.

There is currently no recommended screening test to detect ovarian cancer in women of average risk level. Nevertheless, there are things we can do to protect ourselves from this silent killer.

Know your risks.

Age is a common risk factor for all cancers. Most cases of ovarian cancer happen in women after menopause.  Several other factors can also increase a woman’s risk for the cancer:

  • Family history of ovarian cancer and breast cancer
  • Genetic mutation (abnormality) related to ovarian cancer/breast cancer/colon cancer/uterine cancer
  • Personal history of breast,colorectal (colon), or cervical cancer, or
  • Obesity
  • Having never given birth or have had trouble getting pregnant.
  • Endometriosis (a condition where tissue from the lining of the uterus grows elsewhere in the body).
  • Hormone replacement therapy

Pay attention to the changes in your body.

Many symptoms of ovarian cancer can also be caused by other less serious conditions. “If you have any of these symptoms almost daily for more than a few weeks, and they can’t be explained by other more common conditions, talk to your doctor right away,” said Dr. Gail Bauchman, Family Medicine Physician at the OB/GYN department of the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center:

  • Bloating or abdominal swelling
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Back pain
  • Changes in menstrual pattern
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Increase urinary urgency and frequency
  • Feeling full quickly during meals
  • Indigestion or constipation

Take preventive measures.

Although routine screening of ovarian cancer is not recommended for the general public, diagnostic tests are available for women who are experiencing symptoms of ovarian cancer or those who are at a higher risk. Inform your doctor if you have any of the risk factors mentioned above.

Several lifestyle factors have been shown to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer including

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Using birth control pills – the longer the use the greater the risk reduction
  • Breastfeeding
  • Some at higher risk women have chosen to have their fallopian tubes tied and ovaries removed after they are done having children

Regardless of your risk level, see a gynecologist for routine check ups. Talk to your doctor about any abnormal changes you have experienced and what preventive measures are suitable for you. You can make an appointment at our OB/GYN Department by calling (212) 966-0228 for Manhattan or (718) 886-1287 for Queens, or by visiting our OB/GYN webpage.

This post is made possible with funding from the NYC Council.


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Coping with Breast Cancer

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Written by Josephine Tong

About 1 in 8 women (12%) will develop breast cancer. Breast cancer impacts not only the individual, but also the individual’s personal relationships. A breast cancer diagnosis can be scary, but learning how to cope with this illness can help you better manage your physical and emotional health.

Facing the diagnosis of breast cancer is never easy. Initially, you may feel that you have lost control of your life and are overwhelmed with some of the medical decisions that have to be made.  However, learning about breast cancer and discussing treatment options with your doctor can help you feel more informed and in control.

Coping with breast cancer may be a challenging journey, even for the strongest people. You may feel a mix of emotions such as confusion, anger, fear, sadness, loneliness, or hopelessness. This is in addition to some of your worries like the side effect of treatments, the medical bills, or your children’s future. All of these worries may keep you awake every night, but you do not need to face these challenges alone. You may ask your family and friends to be there by your side to support you through these times. You might consider seeking extra care and support from your doctor or other professionals like social workers or psychotherapists. If you are still concerned by the negative emotions and feel overwhelmed by your current condition, joining a cancer support group may also help.

Cancer support groups are led by professionals or trained cancer survivors.  It allows you and other patients with similar diagnoses to meet on a regular basis. The conversations in the group are about some of the experiences and feelings that you and other members might be going through. As you attend more sessions and gain more comfort in the group, you will begin to notice reduced feelings of anxiety, stress, depression, pain, and fatigue. The support group will also let you learn from each other on how to cope with the challenges of cancer, which may help you feel happier with your self-image and be more in control of your life. Research has also shown that breast cancer patients will have better survival rates as they increase ways of social support, including cancer support groups.

At the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, our breast cancer support group is called Rainbow Club, and has shown to be a valuable resource to many of our patients. One Rainbow Club member shared, “After joining the support group, I can relate to other members about how I feel so I no longer feel scared or alone.” We invite all breast cancer patients, all women diagnosed with breast cancer, and breast cancer survivors to join our support groups located in Flushing and Chinatown. You do not have to be a health center patient to attend the support group. Please call 212-941-2233 ext. 2533 for more details. By joining a breast cancer support group, we hope that it will lead to happier and healthier lives, along with building mutual support between other women going through similar circumstances.

Click here to learn about upcoming Rainbow Club meetings.

Josephine Tong, LMSW is a clinical social worker at Charles B Wang Community Health Center. One of her current roles is overseeing program development with the Komen breast cancer support team and the director of social work, Manna Chan.


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Breast Cancer – Early Detection is the Best Protection

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What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer occurs when the cells in your breasts become abnormal and grow out of control to form tumors. It is the most common cancer among women and the second leading cause of cancer death in women in the United States.

There are lifestyles changes that have been shown to lower risk of breast cancer.

  • Reduce alcohol use – Limit yourself to one drink a day or less.
  • Eat healthy foods – Stay at a healthy weight; limit high fat or sugary foods and red meats. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Be physically active – Walk, jog, swim, or dance. Strive to be active for at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
  • Breastfeed – If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, consider breastfeeding your child for the first year and beyond if possible.
  • Do not smoke – Quit smoking and avoid second hand smoke.
  • Decrease stress – Do things that you enjoy and surround yourself with friends and family.

Besides lifestyle changes, receiving routine breast cancer screening is the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves. By doing so, breast cancer can be found early, before the tumor becomes large or spreads. When detected early, the cancer is easier to treat and more treatment options may be available. Mammography (x-ray of the breasts) is the most effective screening method for detecting breast cancer early.

If you have a personal or family history of breast cancer or are 40 years or older, talk to a health care provider about getting mammograms regularly. Find out when to start getting screened, how often to get screened, and what kind of screenings you may need.

If you would like to learn more about reducing alcohol use or quitting smoking , you may also talk to your provider about available resources.

Make an appointment with a gynecologist to get screened today.  You can make an appointment at our OBGYN department by calling (212) 966-0228 for Manhattan or (718) 886-1287 for Queens. Find more information by visiting our OBGYN webpage.

This post is made possible with funding from the NYC Council.


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Know Your Risks for Ovarian Cancer

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All women are at risk for ovarian cancer – and it is too often caught too late. When ovarian cancer is found in its early stages, there are effective treatments. Here is what you need to know about ovarian cancer, and how you can detect ovarian cancer early.

Detect ovarian cancer early

Ovarian cancer can develop in one or both ovaries. The ovaries are the female reproductive organs on both sides of a woman’s uterus. Many women do not know they have cancer until it spreads beyond the ovary. However, if you detect ovarian cancer at an early stage, you can increase your chance of survival. To detect cancer early, learn about the risk factors, and go for routine gynecological exams.

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Know the risk factors of ovarian cancer

A risk factor is anything that increases your chances of getting a disease. Some common risk factors for ovarian cancer include:

Age is a risk factor you cannot change. As you get older, your chance of developing ovarian cancer increases.

Family history is also a risk factor you cannot change. If you have a relative who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer or breast cancer, your chance of developing ovarian cancer increases.

Cancer history is when you have you have a history of other cancers, including breast cancer, colorectal cancer, or cervical cancer. Having a cancer history increases your chance of developing ovarian cancer.

No pregnancies throughout your lifetime will impact the hormones in your body. Not giving birth may increase your chance of developing ovarian cancer.

Other risks, such as having endometriosis (a condition where tissues from the uterus grows somewhere else in the body) or eating diets high in fat, may also increase your chance of developing ovarian cancer.

Reduce your risk

There are no known ways to prevent ovarian cancer. However, lower rates of ovarian cancer have been founded in women who:

  • Take birth control pills
  • Give birth
  • Breastfeed after giving birth.
  • Have had their tubes tied (tubal ligation) or their uterus removed (hysterectomy)
  • Have had both ovaries removed.

Know the symptoms of ovarian cancer

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • Pain in the area below your stomach and between your hop bones
  • Back Pain
  • Bloating, when the area below your stomach swells or feels full
  • Feeling full quickly while eating
  • Frequent urination

Detect ovarian cancer

While there are not any screening tests available for detecting ovarian cancer, self-awareness is very important. Pay attention to your body, and know what is normal for you. Talk to your doctor about any changes in your body that are not normal. Your doctor may further exam these changes to determine the cause. Be sure to schedule routine GYN checkups with your doctor. This way your doctor will be able to monitor the changes in your body.

Talk your primary care provider and your gynecologist about your risk for ovarian cancer, and what steps you can take to lower your risk. You can make an appointment at our women’s health department by calling (212) 966-0228 for Manhattan or (718) 886-1287 for Queens, or by visiting our women’s health webpage.

Download this in PDF form here.

This post is made possible with funding from the NYC Council.


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Encouraging Asian American Mothers to Breastfeed

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Breastfeeding workshop for expecting mothers in the community.

In New York City, Asian and Pacific Islanders are least likely to breastfeed exclusively within the first 5 days after birth. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant. Many newborns are missing the protection afforded by their mothers’ breast milk as well as the bonding experience during breastfeeding.  Despite the countless health benefits for both mother and baby during breastfeeding, Asian American mothers face numerous barriers preventing them from breastfeeding, including  misinformation about the benefits of breastfeeding, difficulties in breastfeeding when mothers returning  to work, and lack of social support.

We have found that many mothers think that giving their babies formula is just as good as breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding has the potential to improve mothers and baby’s health, and timely intervention and education from health care providers and hospital staffs are important for breastfeeding moms to assure early initiation and successful breastfeeding. A woman’s choice to substitute breast milk is often influenced by misconceptions and a lack of social support.

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Breastfeeding workshop conducted by Senior Health Educator Yajie Zhu.

To combat these barriers, we have enhanced our efforts to improve breastfeeding rates and increase awareness regarding the benefits of breastfeeding in the Asian American community.

We are committed to supporting breastfeeding by providing culturally competent and linguistically sensitive resources and services. With generous funding provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we are implementing a breastfeeding initiative to improve breastfeeding rates within the Health Center and increase awareness of breastfeeding and its benefits in the Chinese American population in the New York metropolitan area.

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Chief Development Officer Regina Lee, Chief of OB/GYN Dr. Allan Ho, Senior Health Educator Yajie Zhu and Chief of Pediatrics, Loretta Au talking to the press about breastfeeding initiatives. 

Our health educators and case managers provide one-on-one breastfeeding counseling with expecting mothers, hospital visits after their deliveries and offer breastfeeding management and support at multiple follow-ups. We have held numerous breastfeeding workshops at our Health Center for mothers-to-be in the community.

If you are or know an expecting mother, learn more about our OB services by calling (212) 966-0228 for Manhattan and (718) 886-1287 for Queens. To learn more about breastfeeding, download this Breastfeeding – Give Your Baby the Best in English or Breastfeeding – Give You Child the Best in Chinese.