By Dr. Rahele Mazarei, DO,
Board-Certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist with Optum located in Oceanside.
Some women fail to see their doctor for a yearly well-visit because they say they are just too busy. Some may put it off because they fear going out in public during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Sadly, undetected breast cancer can metastasize and take lives. Early detection, however, can lead to treatment that can save lives.
This example points out the importance of regular medical checkups for women, particularly because women have health risks that are different than men:
- Symptoms of coronary artery disease and heart attack may be different between men and women.
- Women are twice as likely as men to experience depression.
- Women have a harder time quitting smoking than men.
- Osteoporosis is more common in women.
- Even the results of common screening tests may be different between the sexes.
May is Women’s Health Month; a good reminder to schedule your annual women’s well-visit with your doctor to talk about preventive care and screenings that check for risk factors for chronic conditions and early signs of disease. Women should consider a variety of screenings depending on their age or risk factors.
Mammograms are the best way to find breast cancer early, when it’s easier to treat and before it’s big enough to feel or cause symptoms. It’s also good practice to talk with your doctor about contraceptives and sexually transmitted infections. Testing for cervical cancer will help detect the high-risk human papillomavirus virus which can lead to cervical cancer.
Some diseases such as diabetes are difficult to detect without medical tests. Women can develop diabetes during pregnancy known as gestational diabetes. Others may want to be screened for diabetes mellitus, a group of diseases that affect how your body uses blood sugar, after pregnancy.
About 700 women die each year in the U.S. from complications due to pregnancy. American Indian, Alaska Native and Black women are two to three times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than white women. But, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), two out of three pregnancy-related deaths are considered preventable.
Anxiety screenings may be appropriate given the high levels of anxiety disorders pregnant or post postpartum women experience, as well as women who may be victims of domestic violence. And women are twice as likely as men to experience depression, with some experiencing mood symptoms related to hormone changes during puberty, pregnancy, and perimenopause.
It’s very important to be attentive to mental health, including managing stress and getting enough sleep, and getting active.
Because of differences in a woman’s anatomy, they are at higher risk for some types of physical injuries, such as ACL tears that can occur while playing sports.
And, because there may be differences in symptoms of coronary artery disease and heart attack between women and men, the results of common screening tests may also be different, leading to a misdiagnosis.
Nicotine replacement therapies, such as patches or gum, work better in men than women. This may be because women metabolize nicotine, the addictive ingredient in tobacco, faster than men, making it harder for women to quit smoking.
For women aged 50 and continuing to age 75, there are additional health concerns:
Colorectal cancer screenings are encouraged.
And Osteoporosis is more common because they have less bone mass than men and can experience more bone loss during hormonal changes at menopause.
Being aware of gender influenced health risks can help you take preventive measures to begin and achieve better health at any age or life circumstances.