Addressing women’s health issues can sometimes feel embarrassing so it can be tempting to ignore problems.
A recent YouGov survey carried out on behalf of Care UK found that almost half of all women in Portsmouth admitted they put off visiting a doctor because they were too busy, and more than a third of working women feel pressure from their colleagues when they take time off work.
Early detection of many female health conditions is crucial as many start with smaller symptoms which shouldn’t be ignored.
Here’s more information on some common health issues that affect women and guidance on when you should seek medical advice.
· Cervical screening
Changes in cells of the cervix can be caused by certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV). For most people, this goes away without any treatment and doesn’t cause any harm, but sometimes it can cause abnormal tissue growth and other changes to cells, which can lead to cervical cancer.
Regular cervical screening detects abnormal cell changes before the cancer has had a chance to develop. Seventy five per cent of cervical cancers can be prevented when detected and treated early. Women aged between 25 and 64 are eligible for screening and should be checked every three years.
The HPV vaccine is now routinely offered to girls aged 12-13. To get more information visit nhs.uk/conditions/hpv-vaccination
Look out for the following changes which may indicate that you need to be checked by a doctor:
If you’ve missed two or three periods and a pregnancy test is negative, seek medical advice. Missed periods can also be down to stress, sudden weight loss, intense athletic activity, the contraceptive pill or the start of menopause.
Bleeding between periods or after sex needs to be checked by a doctor as it may be a sign of an infection (such as Chlamydia), abnormalities of the cervix, or, in rare cases, cervical cancer. It can also be caused by a low-dose contraceptive pill – this can be corrected by changing pills.
If your period suddenly becomes heavier, or lasts for longer than usual, seek medical advice. This is especially important if you are over 40.
If you bleed after a year of having no period, seek medical advice straight away. Don’t wait to see if it happens again.
Your periods will gradually become less frequent and then stop altogether. The average age for menopause is 52 and is classed as when you haven’t had a period for one year. It can be a difficult time for women, as you go through many hormonal changes.
Symptoms can include hot flushes, night sweats and irritability, vaginal pain and dryness. Try the following to ease symptoms: do regular exercise, especially relaxation exercises like yoga; wear lighter clothing; keep your bedroom cool at night; try to reduce stress levels; avoid potential triggers, such as spicy food, caffeine, smoking and alcohol; get plenty of rest. Herbal remedies can be used to ease symptoms. For further support, contact your GP to discuss your options.
· Losing your hair
Hair loss can be devastating. Those affected could join a support group, or think about other options, such as wigs.
Most importantly, try and be patient – stress is one of the common factors of losing your hair.
Thinning of the hair can be caused by a shock to the system such as extreme stress, childbirth, sudden weight loss, an operation or a reaction to medication. It’s usually temporary and hair will grow back after a period of time
Female pattern baldness is when hair thins gradually, often from the top of the head. It is usually more noticeable after menopause and tends to run in families
There are also several types of alopecia, with varying degrees of hair loss.