Is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Fatal?

A Closer Look at Risks of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Transvaginal ultrasound scan of polycystic ovary
Schomynv/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

If you've been diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, you may be worried about what the future holds. There’s a tendency to let our minds wander to the worst place possible: Am I going to die?

Rest assured, PCOS is not a fatal illness. Even though there are a number of complications associated with it, PCOS is easily controlled by a few simple lifestyle changes, and in some cases, medication.

Having PCOS does put you at greater risk for heart disease, diabetes, and endometrial cancer — which can be fatal. The good news is that keeping your regular doctor appointments and annual health screenings can catch these illnesses early before they become deadly. Meanwhile, maintaining a healthy diet and exercise program can go a long way toward disease prevention.

Endometrial Cancer and PCOS

Since women with PCOS typically do not menstruate each month unless they take medication, they are at greater risk for endometrial cancer. Other risk factors include smoking, being overweight, and not getting enough exercise, as well as having high levels of estrogen or taking tamoxifan.

Women with PCOS often take estrogen to help balance out high levels of testosterone and induce regular periods. Taking combination oral contraceptives is suggested to prevent endometrial cancer.

In addition, if you are a smoker, quit — which is easier said than done.

Some quitters report that stopping smoking can be more difficult that kicking heroin. Arm yourself with a good smoking cessation program and talk to your doctor about medications and nicotine replacement therapy.

Lifestyle Changes For PCOS

Following a healthy diet and exercising regime can also reduce your risk for endometrial cancer, as well as heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes.

Adding in extra servings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins, and reducing your intake of simple sugars and trans and saturated fats are essential steps that women with PCOS should take.

Try to add in exercise a few days a week to boost your cardiac health. Of course, please speak with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

Because women with PCOS have a propensity for developing insulin resistance, your doctor may recommend a medication, like metformin, to help your body become more sensitive to insulin.

Your doctor may also recommend the birth control pill if you don’t have a regular period. If you are not comfortable taking hormonal birth control, speak to your doctor about other options that may be available.

While having PCOS is certainly an inconvenience as you deal with unwanted body hair, acne, infertility and other symptoms, take heart in the fact that your health is in your hands. The symptoms are manageable and there is a lot that you can do to keep yourself healthy.

Source:

Endometrial Cancer Prevention (PDQ). National Institutes of Health website. http://www.cancer.gov/types/uterine/patient/endometrial-prevention-pdq. Updated July 13, 2015. Accessed February 1, 2016.

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