Women’s health issues is an important topic because gender plays a role in health. There are health issues that effect both genders and some that are specific to women. The following provides information about women’s health issues.
According to the American Cancer Society about 13,240 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2018 and 4,170 will die this year. A PAP smear is a standard test used to detect cervical cancer. This tests identifies changes in the cervix that could potentially be cancer. You can have false positive results and this often requires a biopsy to rule out cancer. Today we know that the human papillomavirus (HPV) is the leading cause of cervical cancer. In 2004 a test was approved that screens for the human papillomavirus. A study in Canada called the HPV FOCAL trial compared HPV testing and PAP smear screening and the results suggest that HPV testing may be more accurate because it detects precancerous lesions earlier than a PAP smear.
Currently in the United States both tests are being used together but women over the age of 30 may only need to have the HPV test. Most women between the ages of 21-29 will contract the HPV virus but over time it should go away. The women over the age 30 who still have the virus are the ones who will usually have problems. This is why they do not recommend women under the age of 30 to have the HPV test by itself. Having options for tests is important but its even more important for all women to have access to any of the that screen for cervical cancer.
Another issue that women impacts only women is menopause. This is a time in a women’s life when she no longer experiences menstruation due to a decline of reproductive hormones. This occur naturally but can also be induced by hysterectomy, chemotherapy and radiation therapy and primary ovarian insufficiency. During this time the depletion of hormones cause symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia and mood swings. Menopause increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, urinary incontinence, sexual dysfunction and weight gain. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can be used to reduce the symptoms and risks related to menopause. There are risks associated with hormone replacement therapy such as breast and ovarian cancer. Heart disease and stroke risks increase in women over the age of 60.
For some women the benefits outweigh the risks. Women who have a history of uncontrollable hypertension, stroke, endometrial, ovarian or breast cancer and or blood clots should not use HRT. Not all women experience menopause the same way and the decision to take hormone replacements should be based on the individual taking into consideration medical history and symptoms. Hormone replacement therapy is a good option for some and bad for others. There are woman who benefit from it more than others. My mom tried not to use HRT and ended up extremely depressed because of the symptoms she was experiencing. Her doctor put her on a low dose and she says she feels so much better.
Both women and men struggle with obesity but the reasons are not always the same. There are many reasons women struggle with obesity such as medical issues, natural changes in the body, genetics, trauma, stress, lack of exercise and an inability to afford healthier food. Obesity can cause other health issues such as diabetes and heart disease. Women are under pressure to look a certain way and this can sometimes lead to using bizarre wight loss tricks such as eating in front of a mirror. This is used to reminder yourself why you want to loose weight. For some women trying to loose weight this way can potentially lead to eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.
Lifestyle changes such as taking time for yourself, eating healthy and exercising are more practical ways to loose weight and keep it off. For those who have tried and not been successful pharmacotherapy or weight loss surgery may be an option. Being at a healthy weight will decrease you chances for other diseases.
Cardiovascular disease impacts both men and women but it’s the number one killer of women in the United States. Cardiovascular disease includes heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, heart failure, arrhythmia and heart valve problems. Risk factors for women include diabetes, stress/depression, smoking, inactivity, menopause, broken heart syndrome, chemo therapy drugs and complications from pregnancy. There are changes that can be made to lower your risk such as not smoking, exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet.
Symptoms of cardiovascular disease are often missed in women because they are different from what men experience. A month before women have a heart attack they may experience symptoms such as unusual fatigue, sleep disturbance, shortness of breath, indigestion, anxiety and racing heart. During a heart attack symptoms may include shortness of breath, weakness, unusual fatigue, cold sweats, dizziness and nausea. It’s easy to see how these symptoms can be mistaken for a panic disorder and stress. Its important for women to be aware of these symptoms as well as for physicians to take these symptoms seriously. Being aware of your risk factors and working to reduce them can lower your chances of cardiovascular disease.
When a person goes to the ER with chest pain an ECG is used to record the electrical activity of the heart and troponin I or troponin T is measured along with a other standard blood tests. There is a test that is being used in cases where doctors suspect the patient may be experiencing warning signs of a heart attack but the ECG results are normal and troponin is negative. The test is ischemia modified albumin (IMA). It measures changes to albumin that can happen due to ischemia. When a test comes back with high IMA levels more testing is needed for confirmation. This test is only used when a person comes into the ER with chest pains so its not as beneficial for women since they don’t usually experience chest pains when having a heart attack. There needs to be more research involving women and cardiovascular disease in order to lower the number of deaths each year.
Female and male brains work differently just as brains work differently within the same gender. Researchers seem to agree that there are differences in the structure, chemicals and function of male and female brains. What they don’t all agree on is how much these biological factors impact how brains works. Early studies showed that males were better at things like math and females were better at multitasking due to the biological make up their brains. Gender roles at the time limited opportunities for development in those areas having a major effect on the outcome of these studies. More recent studies show female and male overall math scores are not as different as they once were.
Today its more acceptable for women to pursue careers in fields that use math and science. Just because you’re a male doesn’t necessarily mean your great at math or good with directions. In one study researchers found that people who had experienced abuse and neglect as children had a reduced amount of white matter in certain areas of their brains. The abuse caused changes in both male and female brains ultimately changing how they work. Brains work differently but the environment has an impact on brains so its difficult to say how much of the difference is biological and how much is environmental.
Women and men are different and therefore it makes sense that they would have different risk factors, symptoms and treatment options for the same health issue. In order to improve the health of women it’s important to continue research studies but also to educate women and providers on these differences.
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- Lorenz, T. (2018, June 30). Are Male and Female Brains Biologically Different? Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/06/male-female-brains-biologically-different/563702
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- Menopause. (2018, October 11). Retrieved from https://www.womenshealth.gov/menopause
- Cervical Cancer. (n.d.). Retrieved September 1, 2018, from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cervical-cancer/references.html
- What is Cardiovascular Disease? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/consumer-healthcare/what-is-cardiovascular-diseas