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October 10, 2013

Last week on our Facebook page, we featured a photo of our certified nurse midwife Susan Griggs after her 500th delivery at Northside Cherokee in Canton in honor of National Midwifery Week and received a great response. Susan has been a part of the Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists team for six years, and many of our patients choose to have Susan assist them when it’s time to have their babies. With all of the questions a new mom has to ask herself to prepare for a delivery, “What is the difference between a certified nurse midwife and a regular obstetrician?” might be one of them. Here’s a closer look.

What is a certified nurse-midwife? Susan and Dr. Litrel

A certified nurse-midwife is a separate but complementary profession to an obstetrician. Physicians are experts in pathology (the study and diagnosis of disease) and should have primary responsibility for the care of pregnant women who have recognized complications or diseases. Midwives are experts in normal pregnancy and in meeting the needs of pregnant women that aren’t related to pathology. In many countries, midwives have the primary responsibility for women with uncomplicated pregnancies.

With a focus on the normalcy of pregnancy and its potential for health, midwives view birth as a natural process that should be treated as such until there is evidence of a problem. Midwives are experts in supporting and enhancing the normal physiology of labor and delivery as well as breast-feeding.

With Susan on our team at Cherokee Women’s, we are pleased to be able to give women more flexibility in regards to their labor and delivery options, ultimately offering them the best in prenatal care for each patient. Here is one of a handful of testimonials we have received about Susan’s six years with us:

“Thank you to everyone at Cherokee Women’s for all you have done for me and my growing family. Susan Griggs is my favorite midwife. She is highly recommended, and the office is very friendly. They have carried me through my 4th pregnancy, and now 5th. Wouldn’t go anywhere else.” Kathy V.

If you have more questions about the differences between an obstetrician and a certified nurse-midwife, don’t hesitate to contact one of our offices to make an appointment with Susan or one of our other doctors.


October 4, 2013

Each October, the world begins to  “think pink” when it comes to breast cancer awareness. With statistics such as “1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer*”, it’s no surprise. But the good news? About 2.6 million female breast cancer survivors currently live in the United States*. And that number continues to grow thanks to research provided by the numerous foundations that make it possible.

The “pink” campaign began in 1990 by the then-titled Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation but is now called Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Now it’s so much easier to purchase the items you regularly buy (or even splurge on a new one) and benefit breast cancer awareness and research at the same time. Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists have put together a handful of options for every type of personality and budget. CWHS Facebook photo

  •  Sonia Kashuk’s Proudly Pink 5-piece brush set benefits the Breast Cancer Research Foundation all year-round. The set is available at Target.
  • Philosophy’s Shower for the Cure ($20) Has a feminine tangerine scent and multi-tasks as shampoo, bubble bath or shower gel in one. 100% of the proceeds support the Women’s Cancer Research Fund.
  • Have the man in your life show his support for breast cancer with a pink tie from theShopKomen.com online store.
  • Gift a teddy-bear lover (young or old) with an incredibly soft pink bear with a “I heart volunteers” t-shirt.
  • Planning on running or walking in the 3-Day in Atlanta this October? New Balance sneakers have partnered with the Susan G. Komen foundation and have a line of (really cute) pink sneakers for runners and walkers everywhere.

When purchasing items to benefit breast cancer research, because of a phenomenon known as “pinkwashing,” be advised when you’re out and about and looking for items that truly do support breast cancer research. According to the Better Business Bureau, in order to make sure donations go to the right place, it’s best to research pink product claims before making a purchase. Ask questions, research the business, confirm the charity’s corporate sponsors, and lastly, consider a direct donation in lieu of purchasing an item. Choose your own favorite breast cancer outreach and research charity and donate to them directly. (It’s tax-deductible that way.)

How do you and your family raise awareness and support breast cancer research? Share your stories by leaving a comment below.

*Statistics via this infographic and the Edith Sanford Breast Cancer Foundation

October 3, 2013

Each year, much of the world goes pink to help spread awareness for breast cancer. In an effort to do our part, Cherokee Women’s Health wanted to devote our first blog in the month of October to reminding women how important it is to get regular mammograms.

According to the National Cancer Institute,  women age 40 and older should have mammograms every 1-2 years, and women who are at higher than average risk of breast cancer (due to family history or women who carry the known mutation in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene) should talk with their health care provider about whether to have mammograms before age 40 and how often to have them.

What to Expect

If you haven’t been to a doctor for a regular mammogram appointment yet, don’t worry – it’s a fairly painless process. Mammography is a fast procedure (about 20 minutes), and discomfort, if any,  is minimal for most women.Mammograms require very small doses of radiation, however the risk of harm from this radiation exposure is extremely low. The benefits of mammography nearly always outweigh the potential harm from radiation exposure, but if you’re concerned about exposure to radiation (especially if you’re pregnant), it’s important to talk to your doctor about these concerns.

Tips for a Successful Mammogram Pink Ribbon

Here are a couple extra tips to help make sure your visit goes smoothly:

  • Bring your past mammogram films/results with you. If you’ve been to the same facility before, make sure your past results are available to whoever is reading the study.
  • Discuss your family history of breast and other cancers — maternal and paternal — with your doctor.
  • Ask if your center has CAD — computer-aided detection — a tool that assists the radiologist in finding any areas of concern that need further attention.
  • If you’ve been referred for a mammogram because of a suspicious lump or a finding on another test, get a detailed note from your doctor including the reason the mammogram has been ordered.
  • Work with your doctor to compare your mammogram results with any other tests you may have had done, such as ultrasound or MRI.
  • On the day of the exam, avoid wearing a dress, since you’ll need to remove your top for the test. Don’t wear deodorant or antiperspirant, since these can show up on the film and interfere with the test results.
  • Schedule your mammogram to avoid the time when your breasts are swollen or tender, such as right before your period.

In between your routine mammograms, it’s important to maintain self-checks each month. Women can do this in the shower, in front of a mirror or lying down, whatever they find most comfortable. If you have questions about routine self-exams or about mammograms, don’t hesitate to contact one of our offices conveniently located in Canton or Woodstock.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

September 25, 2013

Is it hot in here, or is it just you? Hot flashes are one of the most common symptoms of perimenopause, the time in a woman’s life right before she experiences menopause, or permanent infertility. During perimenopause, your body’s production of estrogen and progesterone rise and fall, and many of the other symptoms are a result of decreasing estrogen.

Other symptoms of perimenopause include menstrual irregularity, sleep problems such as night sweats, mood changes, vaginal and bladder problems, loss of bone density, changes in sexual function or desire, and changes in cholesterol levels.

Treatment for Perimenopause Woman thinking

If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms, you can make an appointment with your doctor to discuss the various treatment options, the most popular of which is hormone therapy.

Hormone Therapy can help relieve the symptoms of menopause. For women who still have their uterus, estrogen is usually given in conjunction with progestin, a synthetic version of the hormone progesterone. This helps reduce the risk of cancer of the lining of the uterine that occurs when estrogen is used alone.

Estrogen is used to treat hot flashes specifically, which is the main complaint of women experiencing perimenopause symptoms. Estrogen can also relieve vaginal dryness and can help to relieve some changes that can cause problems associated with urinary incontinence.

It is recommended to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating healthy, staying active and getting enough sleep during this time. Once you’ve gone through 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period, you’ve officially reached menopause, and the perimenopause period is over. If you have questions about hormone therapy treatment for menopause or would like talk to one of our doctors about your perimenopause, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment.

September 17, 2013

The month of September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and this week on our blog, the team of Cherokee Women’s Health felt it important to remind women how important it is to maintain a good relationship with your doctor and to spread awareness about this disease. Approximately 1.5% or 1 in 71 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in her lifetime. Most women do not experience any symptoms of ovarian cancer, so it’s important to be in tune with your body and be comfortable talking to your doctor about any changes.

Symptoms of Cancer of the Ovary

While ovarian cancer is harder to detect than other cancers, there are some symptoms women can watch out for, especially if they persist for two weeks or longer:

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Back pain
  • Enlargement or swelling of the abdomen
  • Inability to eat normally
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Urinary frequency or incontinence
  • Constipation
  • Feeling tired
  • Indigestion

Diagnosis and Treatment Patient consulting doctor

A malignant cyst on the ovaries may be found during a routine yearly pelvic exam with your OB/GYN. Other diagnosis options are vaginal ultrasound, laparoscopy or blood tests.

Vaginal Ultrasound – This procedure uses sound waves to create pictures of your internal organs that allow your doctor to view the images on a screen. The ultrasound will show shape, size, location and makeup of the cyst.

Laparoscopy – In this type of surgery, a laparoscope is inserted into the abdomen to view the pelvic organs. Laparoscopy can also be used to treat cysts.

Blood tests – For women past menopause age, in addition to an ultrasound, your doctor may recommend a blood test that measures the amount of CA 125 in your blood. An increased CA 125 level may be a sign of ovarian cancer in women past menopause.

Treatment for ovarian cancer is based on the stage of the cancer and how much the cancer has spread outside the ovary. Epithelial ovarian cancer has four stages, ranging from the least to most advanced stage. Usually, surgery to remove the uterus and ovaries is performed, and sometimes the lymph nodes and tissue from the abdomen may be removed as well. Surgery may be followed by chemotherapy, depending on the stage of the cancer.

It’s important for women treated for ovarian cancer to schedule routine checkups with their health care provider so he or she can monitor your body’s progress after treatment and make sure you stay as healthy as possible.


September 12, 2013

Last week we received a great question from a potential patient about different types of protein alternatives for vegetarians and vegans. This topic is especially pertinent for a handful of our OB/GYNs,  as Dr. Gandhi and Dr. Crigler are vegans and Dr. Litrel is striving to maintain a vegan diet. If you are looking for alternatives to animal-based proteins, whether it’s due to health reasons, personal beliefs or because you’re looking for alternatives due to pregnancy food aversions, never fear. There are plenty of great options to help keep your body healthy and strong. Here are a few of our favorites: woman-eating-fruit-salad

  • Whole grains – Surprise! Certain whole grains can also be a good source of protein. These include whole wheat, brown rice, whole-grain cereals, wild and brown rice, barley, bulgar, millet, couscous and quinoa. Here’s a little tip about quinoa: it contains more than 8 grams of protein per cup, including all nine essential amino acids that the body needs. For an added protein punch, add wheat germ or rolled oats to your recipes when baking,
  • Soy – Whether it comes in the form of soy milk, edamame (soybeans), or tofu, soy is an excellent source of protein. Foods made from soy contain some of the highest amounts of vegetarian protein.
  • Legumes –  Chock-full of protein legumes offer a variety of options in the form of split or green peas, soybeans, chickpeas, black beans, navy beans, kidney and pinto beans. Two cups of kidney beans, for example, contain about 26 grams of protein! And don’t forget the old standbys of peanuts and peanut butter.
  • Seeds – Sunflower seeds, poppy seeds and sesame seeds all contain protein. Sunflower seeds contain the most at 7.3 grams per quarter cup. Try topping a salad with sunflower or sesame seeds, or adding poppy seeds to a vinaigrette.

Whatever the reason for your diet preferences, the physicians at Cherokee Women’s Health are dedicated to help you find ways to get healthy and stay healthy. Don’t hesitate to let us know if you have questions about diet and healthy food options when you’re in our office for your next appointment.

September 3, 2013

For the month of September, Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists wanted to have a contest to celebrate how amazing and inspirational women can be. What better way to do that than to have a contest titled the Most Inspirational Woman Contest?

Starting Tuesday, September 3rd, we will be accepting a photo and up to 25 words explaining how the woman you’ve chosen (It can be anyone; Mom, daughter, aunt, grandmother, sister, friend, or any female of your choosing) has inspired you in some way. Entries will be accepted through Tuesday, September 17th, and the winners will be determined by the number of likes each entry receives.

MIW banner_use

Contest Prizes Available

For this contest, we have some great prizes available!

Grand Prize – A Spa Deluxe package – $250-250 value

Second Prize – Facial $70 value

Third – Mani-Pedi – $50 value

Contest Fine Print

  • The contest will run Tuesday, September 3rd – Tuesday, September 17th and can be accessed to enter through our Facebook page.
  • Please keep your entry under 25 words. Entries over 25 words will be disqualified.

We’re looking forward to seeing all the photos and inspirational women! Be sure to head on over to our Facebook page to submit your entry!

August 27, 2013

Last month on the Cherokee Women’s Health blog, we introduced you to Amanda, a domestic violence “thriver” who was able to get out of an abusive relationship and rebuild her life. This week, we wanted to share part two of our interview with Amanda chronicling her amazing journey.

In part two of her interview, Amanda discusses how domestic violence has affected her children, particularly her four-year-old daughter who witnessed her father run over Amanda with a car when she was pregnant with her second child. She also responds to how she felt after leaving her husband, if she was surprised by the amount of help she received once she had left, and how long it took her to recover, financially, physically and emotionally.

Amanda says that her advice to anyone in an abusive relationship would be to reach out to friends and family and the community for help. Have  a plan and know that you are not alone.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please seek help. Contact the Cherokee Family Violence Center hotline at 770-479-1703 (En Español: 770-720-7050).

August 20, 2013

A laparoscopy is a surgical technique using a thin, lighted tube that’s threaded through a small incision in the belly to look at abdominal organs, and in many cases, female pelvic organs. Laparoscopy is used to detect problems such as uterine fibroids, cysts, adhesions (scar tissue), and infection. Other common procedures include hysterectomy, removal of abnormal tissue, tissue biopsy, and tubal ligation (commonly referred to as getting your tubes tied).

Laparoscopic surgery has many benefits, including less pain after surgery, a lower risk of infection, a quicker recovery time, and generally, the procedure can be done as an outpatient surgery so you will be able to return home the same day. Additionally, because of the smaller incisions, your body heals faster and the scars will be smaller.

During Your Consultation questions-to-ask-your-doctor

If you want to learn more about a laparoscopic procedure, first make an appointment with your doctor to discuss surgery options. During your pre-op visit with your OB/GYN, it’s important to ask as many questions as you need so that you can feel comfortable about the procedure. Questions to ask include:

  • How long does the surgery typically take?
  • What can I expect the aftercare to be like?
  • What steps do I need to take to prepare for the surgery?
  • What can I take for pain relief after the surgery?

What to Expect After the Surgery

In most cases, you will be able to return home the same day of your surgery. The doctor will want to keep you for 2 to 4 hours after the surgery to monitor you and prepare for your trip home. For the first 24-48 hours, you might experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Pain at the site where the scope is passed through the wall of the abdomen.
  • Mild nausea from the medicine
  • Cramps similar to menstrual cramps
  • Discharge like a light menstrual flow for up to 7 days
  • Aching in your neck and shoulders from the gas put in your abdomen.
  • Swelling in your abdomen for a few days.
  • Bruising at the incision site.
  • Fatigue or muscle aches for a day or two.

If you can, try to enlist the help of a good friend or family member beforehand. You’ll want to make sure take it easy for a few days, so pre-schedule things like basic housecleaning, laundry, and a handful of easy-to-heat meals so that you’re off you’re feet as much as possible.

For more information about laparoscopic surgery techniques, you can visit our website or make an appointment to speak with one of our OB/GYN surgeons.


August 14, 2013

You may have heard about some women’s complications with vaginal mesh surgeries. This week on our blog, we wanted to take a deeper look at this procedure and quell any misunderstandings about vaginal mesh surgeries.

What is Vaginal Mesh, and What is it Used For?

Vaginal mesh is a piece of synthetic mesh that is inserted into the vagina to treat pelvic organ prolapse, a condition where a woman’s pelvic or reproductive organs fall into her vaginal opening, cystocele (anterior vaginal wall prolapse) and rectocele (posterior vaginal wall prolapse). Pelvic organ prolapse is often linked to strain during childbirth, when the muscles in a woman’s body can weaken or stretch out. If the muscles don’t recover, they are unable to support a woman’s pelvic organs. Women may also get pelvic organ prolapse after a hysterectomy, which can sometimes leave other organs in the pelvic area with little support. For many years, vaginal mesh was used to treat the above conditions and was considered standard care.

Complications Associated with Vaginal Mesh

The primary cause of complications associated with vaginal mesh is how the body reacts to it and how it is placed within the body during a surgical procedure. However, in the fall of 2008, an FDA notification that stated patients should be aware of the complications that do potentially exist in relation to the vaginal mesh surgeries urged people to ensure that their surgeon had the proper training and experience required to perform the procedures. Because of this notification, an increase in surgical technique and mesh technology have decreased complications associated with the procedure, but it’s important to note that it should be done by a surgeon with the proper training and experience in vaginal reconstruction.

Cherokee Women’s Health’s Surgery Policy Dr. Litrel

Here at Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists, our doctors’ approach to surgery is the following:

  • We take seriously the Hippocratic Oath we swore in becoming physicians.
  • We constantly seek the best solutions available on the forefront of medical technology.
  • We offer our patients the healthiest and most effective solutions we know of.
  • We treat each patient as we would a family member.

This means no unnecessary surgeries, and looking for the best and easiest solutions to alleviate suffering for each and every patient. The Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists  are experts at removing surgical mesh. Our pelvic and urogynecologic surgeons have the experience and education required to offer our patients a solution to their complications involving vaginal mesh.

If you would like to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors to discuss vaginal reconstructive surgery options, please contact one of our offices conveniently located in Canton and Woodstock.


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“Dr. Litrel was a fantastic doctor. I had my first exam with him, although at first I was skeptical about a male doctor for my GYN. But after I met him I’m glad I kept an open mind, and I couldn’t have dreamed up a better doctor. He cares about you as a person and not just a patient. The front desk ladies and nurses were very friendly and it’s a great office, very clean and not intimidating. I highly recommend Cherokee Women’s Health.”
– Vicki