Women's health

When thinking about women's health, there's a lot to consider. Knowing the diseases and conditions that are among the top health risks for women, such as heart disease and breast cancer, is important. But for many women, effectively managing other matters that affect daily health, such as premenstrual syndrome, birth control, fertility, menopause and more, also is key to enjoying a vibrant life.

One topic that often raises many questions is breast health. What does it mean if you have dense breast tissue? What should you do if you find a breast lump? Is breast pain a cause for concern?

And as you get older, your health concerns are likely to change. Could belly fat lead to health problems? Are Kegel exercises really necessary? What's the best way to deal with the changes of menopause?

No matter what your age, lifestyle choices can go a long way toward lowering health risks and helping you live the life you want. Exercise and fitness coupled with a healthy diet can make a big difference in your health.

Breast health

Breast health begins with breast awareness — getting a sense of what's typical for you. Being familiar with how your breasts usually feel makes it easier to detect when there's a change. Over time, you'll discover how your breasts change in sensitivity and texture at different times depending on your menstrual cycle, age and other factors.

Concerns about breast lumps, breast pain or nipple discharge are common. When you have questions or concerns, talk to your health care provider. Based on a clinical exam, your provider can talk with you about imaging tests you might need.

It's important to understand the screening tests you may need for early detection of breast cancer. They include:

  • Clinical breast exams
  • Mammograms
  • Breast ultrasounds
  • Breast MRI

Dense breast tissue may require additional screening exams. If you have a strong family history of breast cancer or high-risk breast lesions, you may need additional testing with breast MRI.

If you're thinking about breast augmentation or breast reduction surgery, understand the process. Learn about who's a good candidate for surgery, what to expect from the procedure, and possible risks and complications. Talk to your provider about a referral to a plastic surgeon to learn about your options.

Women's life stages

Women's life stages are based on the reproductive cycle, beginning with menstruation and continuing through menopause.

To understand these stages, start with the biology. When menstruation begins during puberty, an egg is released from the ovary during ovulation each month. It travels down the fallopian tube, where it might be fertilized by a sperm. If fertilized, it implants in the lining of the uterus, and pregnancy begins. If not, the egg and lining are shed during menstruation. This continues until perimenopause — the time when your body begins the transition to menopause.

Specific symptoms often mark different life stages in women. Those symptoms may include menstrual cramps, menstrual bleeding, mood swings, hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain and sexual changes, among others. Learn how healthy lifestyle choices can help you feel your best at any stage. Understand your birth control options, hormonal therapy options and what measures can be taken to improve your quality of life. When in doubt, talk to your health care provider.

Cancer screenings also are an important part of your health, no matter what stage of life you're in. Make sure you know the frequency and timing of screening for cervical cancer, colon cancer and breast cancer. Talk to your health care provider about those screenings and which tests are right for you depending on your age and family history.

Sept. 28, 2022