Women have unique health issues and some of the medical conditions that affect both men and women can affect women differently. That’s why, as part of our Celebrating Women program, we went to two local experts for some advice on which medical issues women need to focus on most.
“Heart disease is still the most common reason that women die. About 25 percent of the deaths of women in our country are heart disease,” says Dr. Elizabeth Dunmore, an Internal Medicine Specialist and the Vice President of Medical Affairs at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center.
She says diagnosing heart disease in women is often delayed. “Women are more likely to present with heart disease, without chest pain so that makes that diagnosis a little trickier,” she explains.
And that delay in diagnosis can lead to worse outcomes. That’s why prevention is so important.
“We look at lifestyle choices, diet, exercise, avoiding tobacco, working with your physician to screen for conditions, that can put you at risk for heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol,” says Dr. Dunmore.
Some of those same lifestyle choices, can also help prevent Dr. Dunmore’s second major concern for women…cancer.
She says following proper screening recommendations for the most common cancers in women, lung, breast, and colon, are essential. She also suggests vaccines for the Hepatitis B virus and the Human papillomavirus infection, both of which can cause cancer.
Her third major health concern for women is substance abuse.
Dr. Dunmore says women can safely take in one serving of alcohol a day, while men can tolerate two.
“Using other illicit drugs, women are more likely to be sensitive to the effects, they’re more likely to experience addiction with lower levels of use,” she adds.
We also talked in depth with Dr. Dunmore’s colleague Breast Surgeon Dr. Renee Arlow, about a health concern very important to many women…breast cancer.
Her best advice?
“I think just being sort of self-aware of your breasts, and making sure you’re self-aware of your body, your breasts that when you hit 40, you’re starting to get your screening mammogram, or earlier, if you have certain risk factors,” she explains.
Dr. Arlow also recommends that women do monthly self-breast exams, at the same time of their menstrual cycle each month.
She notes that, “A mammogram is really sensitive but there really are things that can be missed on a mammogram, so even if you’ve had a recent mammogram, and you feel a lump in your breast, it’s really important to go in and get an exam and get it evaluated.”
And Dr. Arlow adds that, “It’s not only with breast disease, but with any piece of your healthcare, really being your own self advocate is really, really important. You know if something is not right and just persistently bringing it up, really making sure it’s been heard and is being adequately addressed.”