October - Women's Health
Emily Whitney, WHNP-C
All women have unique healthcare needs that change throughout their lives and differ according to factors such as lifestyle, family history, genetics, stress level, and environment.
During October, we focus on two issues that affect women predominantly,
Menopause and Breast Cancer Awareness.
Along with appointments for primary care, it is important that women see their healthcare provider when they experience issues with their reproductive system, for example;post-menopausal bleeding, urinary incontinence, breast changes, or pain with intercourse.
Often times women assume that any changes they experience are just a normal part of aging.
Mentioning symptoms to your provider can lead to earlier screening, and potentially an earlier
diagnosis for more serious issues as well as options for treatment of minor issues.
Menopause is an unavoidable process of aging, although the timeline varies for each
woman depending on her unique situation. Some women will spend as much as 40% of their
lives in menopause making this an important and vital time for all women and their healthcare
provider to discuss their changing health and needs. Hormone therapy is considered a safe
option for the majority of women to reduce vasomotor symptoms like hot flashes, insomnia,
low libido, and mood swings, and vaginal symptoms like dryness and pain with intercourse. Less
than 6% of women ever seek help for symptoms of menopause even though there are safe
evidence-based treatment options available.
Breast cancer may also be unavoidable for some women based on their genetics or
strong family history of the disease. Annual screening with mammograms is an essential part of
the toolkit for each woman to ensure early detection. Rather than just performing monthly
breast exams one time each month, women should get to know what their breasts look and
feel like and notify their provider if they notice any changes or abnormalities. Changes in
texture of the skin, dimpling, new lumps, or nipple discharge are all important, as well as any
changes in the armpit area or axilla.
When it comes time for an annual mammogram, Phillips County Health Systems now offers 3D mammography. The new 3D technology allows for greater accuracy in imaging over conventional 2D technology. These screening sessions are conducted in a private exam room and take approximately 20 minutes. Preventive care mammography screenings do not require a doctor's order and are generally covered by most insurance plans.
Our health is valuable and we have to take the time to protect it and prevent health
conditions if we can. Women should see their providers yearly at a minimum for annual
wellness visits to ensure they have had all screenings available to them like mammograms, pap
smears, STI screening, blood work, colonoscopies, and mental health screenings etc. Women
should be open with their provider and feel comfort in knowing that many women experience
similar issues. Healthcare providers are not here to judge or make assumptions, but rather to
guide, recommend, and assist in any way we can with your healthcare needs and goals.