Everybody needs to go to the doctor once in a while. No matter how busy you are, sometimes you have to make some time for yourself to get a checkup and make sure everything is still running smoothly.
Some health issues are universal concerns for men and women — like skin cancer, heart disease, obesity and others. But there are also a few things that generally affect women more. These health conditions are good reasons to keep up with your routine checkups at the doctor’s office.
There are several different kinds of breast cancer, which generally occurs when some breast cells begin to grow abnormally, forming a lump or mass in the breast. It is unclear what causes most breast cancer, but between 5-10% of breast cancer cases occur due to gene mutations. Other risk factors include hormonal, environmental and lifestyle factors like obesity or hormone therapy. Breast cancer can strike both men and women, but it occurs much more among women. About one in eight women will get breast cancer, while it affects one in 883 men. With earlier detection and better treatment, breast cancer survival rates have increased in recent years.
Ovarian and cervical cancer
Ovarian cancer can start in the ovaries or fallopian tubes of a woman’s reproductive system. It is the fifth-leading cancer-related cause of death for women, killing nearly 14,000 women each year. More than half of women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer are over age 63. There is no known way to prevent this cancer, but maintaining a healthy weight can lower your risk.
Cancer of the cervix is mainly caused by the HPV virus, which is transmitted through sex. Unlike ovarian cancer, cervical cancer is preventable by getting an HPV vaccine. Limiting the number of sexual partners can also lower the risk of cervical cancer, as will refraining from smoking. Regular pap smears help detect cell changes in the cervix that could develop into cancer.
Both men and women are at risk for osteoporosis, though the risk is higher for women. This disease causes bones to become more porous and fragile, which makes it easier for bones to break. About one in five men over age 50 have a higher chance of breaking a bone due to osteoporosis, while one in three women are at risk. You can lower your risk with good nutrition, including getting enough calcium and vitamin D. Avoid smoking and alcohol, and maintain a healthy weight.
Autoimmune disease is not a single illness, but a category with more than 100 different diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Anyone can have one of these chronic illnesses, but they disproportionately affect women. About 75% of people with autoimmune disorders are women, and some diseases are much higher. Nine out of 10 people with lupus are women.
The typical symptoms people associate with menopause, like hot flashes, are actually symptoms of perimenopause. This time period — also known as the menopause transition — occurs before menopause as the body begins to produce different levels of estrogen and progesterone. Perimenopause usually happens between ages 45 and 55 and lasts a few years. Other symptoms include moodiness and trouble sleeping.
“Beyond the common side effects women can experience, menopause can also raise the risk of certain health conditions,” says Sarah Hilton, a registered nurse. “After menopause, women have a higher risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, incontinence and other ailments.”
It is important to make time for your health, even if you don’t feel sick and have a healthy lifestyle. Watch for signs of these women’s health issues and talk to your doctor about any concerns.
A version of this article was published by The Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.