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Women's Wellness

It is very important that women take on an active role in managing their own health.

Read on to discover some ways in which you can be pro-active regarding health issues of important significance to women.

Contents:


Cervical Screening

There is 50% more cancer of the cervix (the neck of the womb) in Newfoundland women than in the rest of Canada. A diagnosis with advanced cervical cancer is especially tragic given that if a woman is regularly screened & the disease is caught early on, it is highly treatable.

This is why it is so important for all women, ages 18 and above who have been sexually active to have a yearly PAP smear which tests for the presence of cervical cancer. In fact, a PAP smear can detect changes in the cervical cells even before they become cancerous.

Unfortunately, many women are weary of PAP smears, feeling uncomfortable with the situation itself or fearing that the procedure may be very painful. It is important that such fears do not sway you from having a PAP test!

The procedure is in fact rather simple & rapid, and if your doctor is a male, a female staff member will be asked to be present at the time of the exam.

Following proper procedure, you will be allowed to leave on your shirt or to wear a gown & will be carefully draped so that only the necessary areas of your body are exposed.

During the procedure itself, the physician will insert a lubricated device called a speculum into your vaginal passage which holds the passage open, making the cervix visible and accessible.

Next, a small spatula will be used to lightly scrape a sample of cells from the outer part of your cervix and a small brush will be used to sample cells from the inner part of your cervix. This entire sampling procedure takes only a couple of minutes and then you are all finished. The doctor will transfer the sampled cells onto a glass slide, spray the sample with a fixative and send it off to the lab for analysis.

Research suggests a link between cervical cancer and infection by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). Many clinics will conduct a full screen for HPV as well as other sexually transmitted diseases as necessary.

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Breast Health

One of the most common types of cancer in women is breast cancer. A very important way to detect changes in your breasts is to have a yearly Clinical Breast Exam performed by your physician.

This will typically involve the physician visually examining your breasts for abnormalities as well as carefully feeling all areas of each breast according to a sort of grid system in order to detect any lumps or bumps. According to proper procedure, you will be draped so that only the necessary parts of your body are exposed for examination.

Another way in which breast lumps may be detected is by Breast Self Examination. This involves you conducting your own monthly breast exam at home to detect any lumps or any other changes to the normal appearance of your breasts.

If you need information on how to examine your own breasts, ask your public health nurse or doctor or follow one of the links to the right. If you find a lump in your breast, consult your physician, but don’t panic prematurely-about 90% of the lumps found in breast are not cancerous.

Also, the lumpiness of your breasts will change throughout your menstrual cycle. It may be best to examine your breasts just after you finish your period.

Finally, if you are 50-69 years of age or if breast cancer is known to run in your family, you should have your physician arrange a mammogram examination of your breast. This exam can help pick up any changes in your breasts before they are able to be felt.

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Pregnancy

There are some important steps a woman can take before and during pregnancy to help ensure the birth of a healthy baby.

One concern is getting the right nutrition which can involve eating right as well as taking vitamin supplements. It is particularly important to get enough of a vitamin called folic acid both before conception and during pregnancy. Getting enough folic acid is necessary for preventing neural tube or spinal cord and brain defects in your baby. In addition to over the counter folic acid, you can up your intake by eating foods such as green, leafy vegetables, oranges, cantaloupe, bananas, milk, grains and organ meats.

Another concern is avoiding behavior that can harm your baby. Some of the things you put in your body when you are pregnant can cross the placenta and gain access to your baby, affecting its health.

Two of the most important things to give up when pregnant are drinking alcohol and smoking. Babies of mothers who drink during pregnancy are at risk of being born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, a serious condition that can affect a child throughout its life. Smoking deprives your baby of oxygen and can lead to a number of disorders for your child.

Drug use during pregnancy also poses serious risks to the baby and this applies not only to illegal drugs, but to certain over the counter medications. It is important to check with your doctor before taking a medication during pregnancy to make sure it is not harmful to your baby.

Exercise during pregnancy can offer certain benefits to your baby, but can also be harmful in some circumstances. Consult your physician about exercising during pregnancy.

Please note that some excellent, more detailed information on the above pregnancy-related topics & on other pregnancy concerns can be found in the links section to the right.

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