4 Breakthroughs in Women’s Healthcare in the Last 10 Years

Some women can’t fathom a time when mammograms were painful or full body mole mapping wasn’t the norm. For younger women with the Mirena IUD, the thought of having a menstrual cycle might even seem like a distant dream (or nightmare) from their teenaged years. In fact, the recent increased interest in IUDs, particularly the Mirena which is known for often causing menstrual cycles to lighten or disappear completely, was especially regaled as women feared the loss of birth control options with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. However, many of our favorite medical breakthroughs are relatively young—sometimes less than a decade old.

A lot can happen in ten years. Here’s a look at some of the most phenomenal women’s healthcare medical breakthroughs since 2007. We’ve come a long way!

  1. Lilleta lower-dose levonorgestrel IUD: The IUD, or intrauterine device, has been around in one form or another since the 1970s. However, the first generations got a bad reputation and were banned following allegations of side effects including piercing of the uterine wall. The first IUDs were made of copper, only lasted one year, and without hormones they did not impact hormone-related cramps, acne, or bleeding. Today’s options aren’t your mother’s IUDs.

Mirena was approved for aiding in the side effects of menstrual cycles in 2007. It was the first plastic IUD that slowly released hormones, oftentimes dramatically reducing bleeding from menstrual cycles or stopping it completely. However, some women were concerned over the levels of hormones usedb (levonorgestrel). In 2015, the Lilleta was introduced and offered an option with lower hormone levels and better bleeding patterns as reported from clinical trials. It’s smaller in size for a more comfortable insertion and removal, works for three years, and offers the same positive side effects with less hormone.

  1. HPV Vaccine Program: Ten years ago, the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine was introduced to protect against either two, four, or nine strains of the virus. The three choices all include protection against “HPV 16 and 18,” which account for the biggest risk factors of cervical cancer in women. Studies have shown that the vaccine can also protect up to 80 percent of anal cancer (yes, that’s a real disease), 60 percent of vaginal cancer, 40 percent of vulvar cancer, and even some types of mouth cancer. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests adults get the HPV vaccine as a preventative healthcare measure.

  2. Stem cell regeneration: In 2008, the first tissue-engineered wind pipe transplantation took place. A patient’s bone marrow was used in tandem with a transplant donor to graft a successful trachea onto the bronchus. In 2014, the first retinal pigment transplant was achieved to treat the eyes of an elderly woman suffering from age-related eye degeneration. Stem cell regeneration is also gaining popularity in women’s hair loss treatments and skin care regimens, showing hopeful signs of being a genuine fountain of youth.

  3. TDCS for binge-eating disorder: Eating disorders are the deadliest, most under-diagnosed, and most under-insured mental illness in the country. It’s an epidemic, and there are various forms of eating disorders, including binge-eating disorder (BED). Just last year, transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS) showed great promise in treating BED according to University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers. The neuromodulator delivers regular, low-current electricity to a part of the brain linked to eating disorders, potentially re-wiring how the brain operates.

The more research, knowledge-sharing, and funding that’s directed towards medical breakthroughs for women, the better the statistics will be in another ten years. Women face a higher risk of eating disorders, stroke, heart disease, breast cancer, depression, and anxiety than men. However, with modern breakthroughs, the playing fields have a chance of being leveled.