Letters from the May 22, 2004, issue of Science News

Further options

“Surgical Option: Hysterectomy may top drugs for women with heavy bleeding” (SN: 3/27/04, p. 196: Surgical Option: Hysterectomy may top drugs for women with heavy bleeding) doesn’t mention that 13 to 20 percent of women with heavy menstrual periods have a common but often undiagnosed bleeding disorder called von Willebrand disease. Because this disorder is often treatable by medication, many of the hysterectomies performed to stop bleeding could be prevented. The National Hemophilia Foundation and its local chapters are making a nationwide effort to raise awareness about von Willebrand disease.

Cathy Cornell

New England Hemophilia Association

Dedham, Mass.

Your article fails to mention newer therapies. Many women with heavy bleeding who do not have malignant disease or fibroids are candidates for endometrial ablation procedures, in which the uterine lining is destroyed without removal of the uterus. Even patients with fibroids may be candidates for embolization, targeted ultrasound, or other emerging therapies.

Robert D. Sheeler

Mayo Clinic

Rochester, Minn.

A good deal more could be learned if similar studies were conducted in societies where hysterectomies aren’t as readily available as they are in the United States and Finland. The fact that hysterectomies are perhaps the more socially acceptable option in wealthy industrial societies may mean little in terms of their actual, medical effectiveness.

James M. Bryant

Riverside Municipal Museum

Riverside, Calif.

Snake ayes

“The Social Lives of Snakes” (SN: 3/27/04, p. 200: The Social Lives of Snakes) suggests that pregnant rattlesnakes might give their offspring a better chance of survival if they congregated for birth. If that were true, one might expect that there would also be a convergence of birth times. While doing research over 25 years ago, we had five of six pregnant rattlesnakes caged together all give birth the same evening. Coincidence? Pheromones? Common environmental trigger? I agree that the efforts of these mothers, which even forgo eating, are “heroic.”

John Galligan

Pottstown, Pa.

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