Women's Health

There have been a lot of advances in women’s health particularly in relation to breast and cervical screening programmes and most recently with the introduction of the HPV vaccine. It is important that women do as much as they can to look after their health.

Breast awareness

Breast awareness is the term given to encouraging people to get to know their own breasts and to be aware of what changes to look for. Breast cancer is the leading cause of female cancer death in the UK, but did you know that on average 300 men each year are also diagnosed with the disease?

Encourage all women that you know to familiarise themselves with the five point breast awareness plan:

  1. Know what is normal for you.Breast screening x-rays
  2. Know what changes to look and feel for:
    • lumps
    • changes in size or shape
    • changes to the skin such as puckering or dimpling
    • changes to the appearance of the nipple or a discharge
    • changes in sensation that are different from menstrual tenderness
  3. Look and feel on a regular basis – remember there is no right or wrong way to do this but make sure that you cover every part of the breast including up into the armpit.
  4. Report any changes to your GP without delay. Most breast changes are harmless, however its important to have they checked out because early diagnosis of breast cancer increases your chances of survival.
  5. Attend routine breast screening if you are aged 50 or over.

Cervical screening

Cervical cancer can often be prevented if changes to the cervix are detected early. Cervical screening tests are carried out to check the health of the cervix and to spot any changes. These tests save thousands of lives each year within the UK.

It is important to have cervical screening tests regularly:

  • for women aged 25-49 every three years
  • for women aged 50+ every five years

It is particularly important for you to have regular cervical screening tests if you:

  • first had sex at an early age
  • smoke
  • do not use condoms
  • have had several sexual partners

Most changes are harmless and do not lead to cervical cancer. The biggest risk factor for cervical cancer is not having a cervical screening test as changes can occur without you being aware of them.

Pre-menstrual syndrome

Pre-menstrual Syndrome(PMS) also known as pre-menstrual tension(PMT) can occur with the hormonal, physical and emotional changes that take place up to 2 weeks before the start of a period.

Symptoms of pre-menstural syndrome include:

  • mood swings, feeling emotional or irritable
  • headaches
  • food cravings
  • poor concentration
  • weight gain
  • feelings of bloatedness
  • changes to skin including oiliness and blemishes

These symptoms are usually relieved when the period starts, however there are things you can do to help reduce these symptoms:

  • be active on a regular basis
  • eat healthy foods and try to maintain a constant blood sugar level by eating regularly
  • learn to relax

If symptoms of pre-menstural syndrome are affecting your daily life seek advice from your GP

Heavy periods

If you experience heavy periods don’t just suffer with them, contact your GP for information and possible treatment options.

Menopause

The menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45-55. Your body is changing, levels of oestrogen and progesterone (hormones produced by the ovaries) drop significantly, periods become irregular and eventually stop.

Symptoms of the menopause can include:

  • irregular periods
  • hot flushes
  • night sweats
  • sleeplessness
  • feeling emotional or irritable
  • headaches
  • forgetfulness
  • vaginal dryness and reduced sex drive

There are things you can do to help reduce these symptoms:

  • be active on a regular basis
  • eat healthy foods and try to maintain a constant blood sugar level by eating regularly
  • learn to relax
  • stop smoking

Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) can help to ease uncomfortable symptoms, replacing the lost oestrogen and progesterone hormones helps to counteract the effects of the menopause. For more information and advice contact your GP.