Nursing is dominated by women- ninety percent of registered nurses are female, according to the 2011 Men in Nursing Occupations study by the US Census Bureau. Women’s Health is therefore doubly important for nurses as they care for their own health and that of their patients. Women’s Health, in the broad sense, encompasses all health topics but here we will address select issues that affect predominately or only women.
Breast Health - Other than non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most predominant cancer in women. CDC recommends women aged 50-74 get mammograms every 2 years unless advised differently by their health care professional. Women aged 40-49 should also contact their health care professional to determine when and how frequently they should get a mammogram. No matter your age, talk to your health care professional about all breast screenings including self-breast examinations and clinical breast exams.
Cervical cancer screenings -The CDC estimates that approximately 12,000 new cases of HPV-associated cervical cancer are diagnosed annually in the US. Their website recommends that women aged 21-64 years, at average cervical cancer risk, should be screened every three years.
Menopause -The “M” word often brings feelings of foreboding and despair to women. Loss of childbearing potential, hot sweats, emotional distress, aging fears, and unwanted body changes are the well-known harbingers of this particular fact of life. But menopause can also be a time of freedom and a new chapter in a woman’s life. Many women enjoy no longer menstruating and being able to have sex without fear of pregnancy (after confirming medically that this is no longer an option). Menopause is no longer “that which cannot be spoken of” in contemporary society. Most menopause symptoms can be treated or mitigated by a health care professional and/or with lifestyle changes.
Pregnancy - A healthy lifestyle is crucial for women prior to and during pregnancy to increase the probability of a healthy infant. Pregnancy can affect a woman’s physical and mental health. Prenatal health care visits and tests are vital. Regular oral and vision exams need to be kept current. Visit http://womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/index.html for a thorough examination of this topic.
Women’s mental health issues - Certain mental health issues that affect only women including post-natal depression, premenstrual syndrome, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder are REAL diagnoses that negatively impact lives and cause distress but are treatable. Many treatment options are available, some as simple as healthy lifestyle changes. Visit the resources listed below for specifics. If you or someone you know is struggling with these or any other mental health issues, seek professional healthcare assistance. If contemplating suicide, call 911 or crisis line immediately.