(Tina Dawn/ VM-Med) –– While healthcare is ultimately healthcare for all, women have unique challenges and health issues because of their complex biology and their reproductive years. As well, some of the health issues that affect both men and women can affect women differently. Unique issues to women include pregnancy, perimenopause, menopause and medical conditions affecting women’s reproductive system.
As the medical community becomes more aware of these biological differences and the indifference or lack of knowledge about the female anatomy patients sometimes endured in the past, scientists today are working hard to increase their understanding of the difference between the health needs of men and women.
It’s important for women –and the physicians and medical teams who treat them– to understand that their biological make-up impacts their predisposition to certain health issues.
Pregnancy and related issues
Maternal health issues are uniquely a women’s health issue. Pregnancy can cause many changes to a woman’s body, and while most of them are benign, certain changes can indicate dangerous and sometimes even life-threatening disorders, like gestational diabetes.
Women need to be aware and informed of what they can do to ensure a healthy pregnancy well in advance of carrying a child. Prenatal care is vital to detect issues like iron-deficiency anemia or high blood pressure, changes that can significantly impact both the woman’s and the baby’s health. Older women experiencing pregnancy need to be made aware that they run a higher risk of complications. For example, preeclampsia, a condition that causes high blood pressure during pregnancy, can increase a woman’s risk for stroke.
The more empowered and informed women are of this extremely important and impactful period of their lives, the better choices they can make and the louder they can advocate for their health before, during, and after their pregnancy, and that also includes the baby’s delivery.
Cancer that affects women
While cancer is an equal opportunity disease affecting both men and women, there are specific types of cancer that mostly affect women, and those are breast, colorectal, endometrial, lung, cervical, skin, and ovarian cancers. Knowing about them and their signs can better equip women to work towards prevention and better detection.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women in North America, except for skin cancers. While women of any age can be diagnosed with breast cancer, the risk increases as you get older. Knowing your family history and ensuring annual mammograms is a good step towards protecting yourself. In fact, most doctors will recommend breast cancer, cervical cancer and bone density screenings for all women.
Endometrial cancer is something women should be aware of. Regular pelvic exams should be part of their routine healthcare. Starting their periods early in life, a late menopause, a history of infertility, or not having any children at all can also increase their risk.
Cervical cancer affects many women, mostly those who have been infected by certain types of the human papillomavirus (HPV), considered by the medical community as being the most important risk factor for cervical cancer. HPV vaccines will hopefully significantly reduce and potentially even eradicate cervical cancer in younger generations of women and doctors urge parents to vaccinate their girls.
Medical conditions affecting women
Some other health concerns primarily impacting women, and what you can do to manage your risk:
Anyone can get a urinary tract infection (UTI), but they are more common in women. Primarily because the urethra (the tube that carries urine out of the body) in women is shorter and closer to the anal area, where E. coli bacteria are common. UTIs are very common, occurring in 1 out of 5 women at one point in their lifetime.
Although diabetes is certainly not exclusive to women, it does increase the risk for heart disease by four times in women. Women diagnosed with diabetes should be on the lookout for any symptoms indicating heart disease.
Outdated information or cliches about what may or may not affect women can also end up endangering a female patient’s health. Too often, when people think of a heart attack, they tend to think of men being more prone to suffering from or potentially dying from one. But heart disease is the number one cause of death for women. If the patient or the people around them don’t associate heart attacks with women, they may dismiss symptoms and ignore red flags until it’s too late.
Our team at VM-Med supports every aspect of our patients’ gynecological health throughout the course of their lives. We offer a welcoming environment and specialized counselling and treatments on a wide range of issues. This includes menstruation, menopause, screening, and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and genital cancers, hormonal imbalances, and more.