Women’s Health Issues
This section is dedicated to health issues that generally affect women. We offer sections for men, children, and general health issues as well. Just select the choice best suited to your needs at the bottom of this page.
Some of the issues listed below can affect men or children, however, they are listed in this section because more times than not they affect women.
Breast cancer is not just one single disease. There are several types of breast cancer. It can be found at an early or advanced stage of development. It can grow very slowly or very rapidly or somewhere in between.
Breast cancer is, thankfully, no longer a guaranteed death sentence. Early detection is KEY! You must perform breast exams monthly, as well as follow up with doctor exams and mammograms.
Cancer begins when cells change and increase in number, often to form a lump. If the cancer is not removed or controlled, the abnormal cells can spread and may eventually cause death. Most breast lumps are benign, which means they are non-cancerous and are usually harmless.
Breast cancer generally arises in the cells that line the specialized breast tissue. Most arise from the milk ducts – ductal cancers – while a small number arise in the milk sacs – lobular cancers. Breast cancer can spread to the lymph glands, the bones and to other parts of the body. It can be sensitive or insensitive to some or all of the treatments available.
What causes breast cancer?
The cause of breast cancer is unknown. Genetics plays a partial role, in the respect that people with breast cancer in their families have a higher risk of developing it. However, just because you have no history of breast cancer in your family, does not mean you will not get it.
What are the risk factors for breast cancer?
(may have one or more of these symptoms)
- Age – The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. Over 70% of breast cancers occur in women over 50.
- Family history – Only 5 to 10% of breast cancers may be linked to family history, however, women who have a relative who has had breast cancer may face an increased risk of developing the disease. However, at least nine out of ten women who get breast cancer do not have a family history.
- There is a higher risk of breast cancer in women who drink alcohol.
- There may also be a link with high levels of fat in the diet, and obesity.
When should you seek medical advice?
- A lump in your breast or armpit
- A lumpy area or thickening anywhere in the breast that feels different from the rest of the breast tissue
- Enlarged glands under either armpit
- Bloodstained nipple discharge
- Any marked change of appearance in a nipple, such as the nipple ‘pulling in’ or a rash around the nipple
- Differences in skin texture such as puckering or dimpling
- A change in the size or shape of one breast
- Swelling, thickening or persistent pain in either breast that feels different from pre-menstrual tenderness
- Swelling of the upper arm
Special Websites for Breast Cancer:
Cancer that forms in tissues of the cervix. The cervix is what connects your uterus and vagina.
It is usually a very common, but slow-growing cancer that may not have symptoms but can be found with yearly pap tests.
There is now a shot that can help prevent cervical cancer. This shot (HPV) should be given to female children between the ages of 12-19.
What causes cervical cancer?
The cervix is the part of the womb that projects into the vagina. It measures less than one inch across and about one and a half inches in length. It is a block of a special type of muscle covered by a thin layer of surface cells.
Cancer of the cervix develops in these surface cells, which first start to grow in an abnormal way (precancerous cells). After about 10 years, the precancerous cells turn into true cancer cells, which spread into the muscle of the cervix and surrounding tissue and then to other parts of the body.
Precancerous cells in the cervix seem to develop after an infection of the cervix by a sexually transmitted virus called human papilloma virus. This virus also causes genital warts.
What are the risk factors for cervical cancer?
(may have one or more of these symptoms)
- First had sex at an early age
- Became pregnant as a teenager
- Use contraceptives that do not act as barriers
- Have had a large number of sexual partners or have a sexual partner who has had many other partners
- You are infected with the AIDS virus (HIV)
- Take immunosuppressant drugs (i.e.: after a kidney transplant)
- Have been infected with a sexually transmitted disease at any time
When should you seek medical advice?
- You experience bleeding between normal periods
- If you bleed after sex
- If you experience post-menopausal vaginal bleeding
- Pain when having sex and vaginal discharge
Special Websites for Cervical Cancer:
Also known as a water infection, a kidney infection, or a urinary tract infection (UTI) The problem with medicine is that there may be several words or phrases for the same illness.
Cystitis really means an infection or inflammation of the bladder.
What causes Cystitis?
A UTI is due to germs entering the urinary tract. The most common route is up through the urethra and into the bladder. The most usual germs are those found in the bowel which spread to the groins and then up the urethra. So a UTI is much more common in women because the urethra is much shorter and closer to these germs.
It is not known why some women get repeated cystitis and others do not. Frequent intercourse, especially with a new partner, can cause cystitis so-called honeymoon cystitis
What are the symptoms of Cystitis? (may have one or more of these symptoms)
- Low central abdominal pain
- Pain on passing urine
- Pain after passing urine
- Going more often to the bathroom to pass urine
- Passing blood in the urine.
How do you prevent Cystitis?
Women who get UTIs frequently can prevent them occurring by washing once or twice a day the perianal and labial areas to keep the germs at bay.
Drinking will help keep the urine flowing.
Endometriosis is an unusual and often misunderstood condition that usually only comes to light when a woman is investigated for infertility.
The endometrium lines the womb and undergoes changes every month. In the month the endometrium grows in readiness to provide a place for a fertilized egg to start to grow. If a woman does not become pregnant the lining of the women is shed – the period.
In endometriosis, the cells that form the endometrium can be found in other parts of the body but most commonly in the pelvis or abdomen. These cells grow to form the bed ready for the fertilized egg if the pregnancy does not occur they bleed just like the proper lining of the womb. However, the blood and cells have nowhere to go so form pockets of old blood and dead cells. If you look at these pockets they appear like little collections of chocolate, being deep brown. This process is very painful as the forming of the pockets stretches the surrounding tissue, causing the pain and inflammation. Endometrial pockets can be found anywhere in the pelvis and abdomen. They can be found in the ovary itself and form what are known as ‘chocolate cysts’.
What causes the Endometriosis?
The cause is unknown.
Of the theories, the most widely accepted is retrograde menstruation. According to this theory, some of the menstrual blood produced at period time flows backward down the fallopian tubes and into the pelvis. Some of the endometrial cells, contained in the menstrual fluid, drop onto the reproductive organs or other areas in the pelvis. These cells cause endometriosis.
What is not known is why these endometrial cells cause endometriosis in some women and not in others.
When should you seek medical advice?
- You experience unusual pain during your period
- You have exceptionally heavy or irregular periods
- Bowel movements and passing urine becomes very painful
Although Menopause happens (usually) during “mid-life”, that doesn’t mean the “end of life”! Many women feel that Menopause is a bad thing and the end of being a “woman.” It isn’t! It is a normal, healthy part of being a woman. As irritating as some of the symptoms of menopause can be, there are many benefits as well.
You can enjoy a healthy, active sex life with your partner without pregnancy worries. (We do not recommend that you go out and have sex with everyone you meet, there are still STD’s to worry about!) You can also wear white without worry, among a few other good things (which can vary from person to person)…
The bad part of menopause is some of the temporary side-effects. Just remember they are TEMPORARY! Make sure you talk with your doctor or ob-gyn when these symptoms start occurring because nowadays there are some great medications that can alleviate some of the side-effects of menopause.
What is Menopause exactly?
The monthly menstrual cycle usually continues until a woman is about 45 but this is a bit of a generalization. Changes can occur in some women before 45 and some afterward.
So at about 45 a woman’s ovaries tend to start to fail. The hormones produced by the ovary also start to decrease, so the body levels of these hormones that have remained relatively static for years start to fall.
This slow fall continues for about 10 years, leveling off to what are called post-menopausal levels in the mid-fifties. At some stage down this fall, a woman’s period’s stop, but what has to be remembered is that there are changes in the hormone levels before this happens and AFTER this happens.
- Sometimes a woman’s periods carry on every month and then suddenly stop
- Sometimes they stutter with longer gaps between periods until they stop
- Sometimes they can become more frequent and then stop
What are some options for treatment?
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) contains estrogen. Women going through the menopause undergo HRT because their ovaries are no longer producing estrogen.
There are some much-publicized risks with taking HRT. The lining of the uterus can start to build up which makes increases the risk of cancer of the uterus. However, a lot of HRT contains progestogen which helps bring that risk back down.
A lot of women prefer an alternative approach using Phyto Soya products. More information about Phyto Soya can be found at the link below.
There are also lots of other solutions that can help alleviate some of the symptoms and side-effects of menopause. Talking with your doctor is the first step to finding out what the best choice for you and your body will be.
Get more information here:
When should you seek medical advice?
If you believe you are entering menopause then you should contact your doctor or ob-gyn and discuss it with them. They will be able to tell you if you are becoming menopausal and what to do about it.
Although pregnancy is not an illness, you will experience a great deal of changes with your body both physically and emotionally. These changes may cause anxiety. There are various choices regarding where you would like to deliver your baby.
There are thousands of books, websites, and “friendly advice” that will help you deal with the upcoming changes in your body and life. Sorting out what is right solely depends on you. Everyone is different, though some changes may be similar from woman to woman. Each experience, even if you have 10 children, will be different and unique. You need to trust your instincts, your feelings, and your “inner voice”. You know your body best!
Visit the doctor regularly and communicate openly and honestly with him/her What happens and when?
TYPICAL MEDICAL PREGNANCY TIMETABLE
(weeks may vary)
- 6-8 weeks – Pregnancy confirmed
- 9-12 weeks – See midwife for arrangement and discussion for place of delivery
- 13-15 weeks – First appointment for a dating scan and blood tests
- 20 weeks – Further scan to check development and growth. Optional visit to midwife discuss results and care
- 24 weeks – Appointment with your Doctor
- 28 weeks – Appointment with midwife and further blood tests
- 32 weeks – Appointment with your Doctor
- 34 weeks – Appointment with midwife
- 36 weeks – Appointment with your Doctor. Then every week either midwife or Doctor till D Day!
10 Healthy Suggestions:
- Eat a balanced diet – Try to eat a variety of the following: bread, cereals, rice, fruit, vegetables, milk and dairy foods, meat, fish, egg, and pulses.
- Avoid certain foods – Soft cheeses, pate, soft boiled eggs, liver and liver based foods, undercooked meat.
- Take folic acid – Folic acid can help reduce the risk of spina bifida. Take a supplement of at least 400 micrograms daily. Also eat more foods rich in folic acid such as broccoli, spinach, avocado, brussel sprouts, granary bread and marmite.
- Stop smoking – Smoking during pregnancy is harmful to your baby and carries a higher risk of premature birth. Also, avoid passive smoking.
- Avoid alcohol – Limit your alcohol intake to 1 or 2 units per week. (1 unit = 1 small glass or wine, or 1/2 pint of lager or 1 measure of spirit or liqueur)
- Over the counter medicines – Speak to your midwife or doctor for advice.
- Take time to relax – Rest whenever you are able to and during the day when possible especially in the later months of your pregnancy.
- Take regular exercise – Walking, swimming and yoga are all beneficial. Avoid strenuous exercise.
Bone is alive and constantly changing no matter what age you are. Old, worn out bone is broken down by cells called osteoclasts and replaced by bone-building cells, called osteoblasts. This process of renewal is called bone turnover.
In childhood the cells that make new bone work faster, enabling the skeleton to increase in density and strength. During this period of rapid bone growth it takes the skeleton just two years to completely renew itself; in adults, this takes seven to ten years. Bones stop growing in length between the ages of 16-18 but continue to grow in strength into your mid-twenties. By this age, your bones have reached their maximum potential strength (peak bone mass).
It is therefore very important to ensure that children and teenagers have a diet high in calcium and plenty of exercise. The more you use your bones, the stronger they become. These two factors are very important throughout our life.
Up until the age of 35, a balance between bone breakdown and new bone formation means that bone density stays stable. After this age, bone loss increases as part of the natural aging process. This can lead to osteoporosis and an increased risk of fracture, particularly in women, due to accelerated bone loss at the menopause.
Who is at risk?
We are all potentially at risk of osteoporosis because of the bone loss that occurs as we get older, particularly as we are living longer as a population. There are also many other factors which can increase your risk.
What can cause Osteoporosis?
- For Women a lack of oestrogen, caused by
- Early menopause – before the age of 45
- Early hysterectomy – again bore the age of 45 and especially if both ovaries removed
- Missing periods for 6 months or more as a result of over-exercising or over-dieting.
- Long-term use of corticosteroid tablets (for conditions such as asthma)
- Maternal history of a hip fracture or family history of osteoporosis
- Malabsorption, inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis) and gastric surgery
- Long-term immobility
- Heavy drinking
- For Men – Low levels of the male hormone testosterone
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