By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
Just like every individual has circumstances that affect their health, from family history to environment, women have various ailments that affect them in different ways.
With that in mind, medical experts believe there are conditions women should heed to ensure good health.
“Scheduling regular screenings is essential, whether that is mammograms and pap smears to cardiovascular and colonoscopy appointments,” said Charles Katz, obstetrics and gynecology physician at Rochester Regional Health. “When you make these regularly scheduled appointments with your physician, it gives us an opportunity to touch base with you and make sure that we are able to detect any health issues as soon as possible.”
Here are five main issues to which women should pay attention:
1. Pregnancy and COVID-19
Some women have health problems that arise during pregnancy. Other women have health problems before they become pregnant that could lead to complications. “Through pregnancy, we are focused on various aspects of a mother’s health. There are women who want midwives present, want natural childbirth or alternative birthing positions and we look to accommodate their needs,” said Katz, medical director of the eastern region of Rochester Regional and the Women’s Center in the Finger Lakes. “You have to feel comfortable before and after during the healing process.”
In addition, the Centers for Disease and Prevention has recommended that pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers can receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
“Receiving the vaccination is a very personal decision and you should talk with your physician to make sure you are comfortable,” said Katz. “We don’t have long-term data on how it affects children or whether there are any red flags. We would recommend that pregnant women wait until the end of the first trimester is over to receive the vaccine if they choose.”
2. Well-woman exams
A well-woman exam is one of the most important steps that women of all ages can take to protect their health. This is an annual preventive screening of breast and gynecological diseases. During the visit, your doctor will discuss your health and lifestyle behaviors and will perform a gynecological exam.
“This is an excellent opportunity to maintain a healthy lifestyle and learn to minimize health risk,” said Katz. “We can screen anything from blood pressure and lipids to diabetes, thyroids and heart disease risk.
The American Cancer Society estimates that about 14,480 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed and 4,290 women will die from the disease this year. All women are at risk for cervical cancer. It occurs most often in women older than 30. Long-lasting infection with certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV is a common virus that is passed from one person to another during sex.
“We have gotten the rate of cervical cancer down because of routine screenings. If you are younger than 30, we recommend pap smears every three years and then after that every five years,” said Katz.
In addition, breast cancer is still prevalent and should not be ignored even though statistics are going down. Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the United States. Black women and white women get breast cancer at about the same rate, but Black women die from breast cancer at a higher rate than white women.
“Breast cancer awareness has become mainstream every October and while numbers are decreasing, there are still a substantial amount of women who suffer and die from the disease so we can’t take our focus away from improving those numbers,” Katz added.
Long-acting reversible contraception, or LARC, is reversible birth control that provides long-lasting pregnancy prevention. The LARC methods include intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants. Research has shown that these highly reliable options are 20 times more effective than birth control pills, the patch, or the vaginal ring. Katz said one important reason why the LARC removes the user error factor that can make other methods less effective such as remembering to take a pill daily or have a diaphragm on hand ready to go.
“Factors such as being a patient who has painful menstrual cycles or not being a good candidate for birth control pills would make me recommend LARC to a patient,” said Katz.
Menopause is the time that marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycles. It will affect their lives for nearly two decades. As a woman ages, her hormones and fertility decrease. It’s typically diagnosed after you’ve gone 12 months without a menstrual period. Katz said the average of menopause is 51 and some of the symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings. He believes there are many herbal products that can help with estrogen including soy, black cohosh, St. John’s wort, wild yam, dong quai, evening primrose, valerian root, ginseng and chasteberry.
“You should, of course, always mention herbal products when you are talking to your doctor. But it is well-known that there are supplements and herbs that you can take naturally that are over-the-counter if you don’t want to take medication,” added Katz.