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Apr 20, 2004
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A must read for all you wonderful gals..........

8 Health Mistakes Even Smart Women Make

Health Mistakes Even Smart Women Make:

You're no slouch at taking care of your body. Yet many seemingly logical claims that you may regard as gynecological facts can either worry you unnecessarily or lead you to make big health mistakes. So it's time to set the record straight. Redbook canvassed women's-health specialists to discover their patients' biggest gynecological slipups -- and the facts you need to know.

Health mistake #1: Cleaning too vigorously down there

"The vagina actually contains lots of healthy bacteria that ward off the growth of 'bad' germs, making the area naturally self-cleaning," says Patricia Sulak, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Texas A&M Medical School. "Using harsh soaps, powders and perfumed products can irritate sensitive vaginal skin, causing redness, burning and/or itchiness." Your best bet is to use a gentle, non-deodorant cleanser, such as Dove or Neutrogena.

Health mistake #2: Putting your faith in your gyno's breast exams

Given that visits to doctors these days tend to be drive-through fast, it's important to make sure your physician is checking you properly.

Here's the way your exam should go: Your doctor should observe your breasts while you're sitting up, to look for puckering of the skin, a potential sign of cancer. Next she should examine them while you're lying on your back with your arms folded behind your head; this enables her to easily get to the area around your underarms and ensures that your breast tissue is evenly spread out, so you receive the most thorough examination. She should then knead your breast with her fingers, starting at your nipple and moving outward (as if your nipple were the hub of a bicycle wheel and she were feeling the spokes), using small circular motions, until she works her way around and into your underarm. (Alternatively, instead of the "bicycle-wheel method," she may press -- again, in small circles -- in vertical lines from your collarbone to the "bra line" underneath your breasts.) Finally, she should lightly pinch each nipple to check for discharge.

Health mistake #3: Never questioning your mammogram results

No matter what, no exceptions: If you feel a lump and your doctor says the mammogram looks normal, but you're not convinced, ask for a sonogram, too, says Nancy Beth Lebowitz, a New York gynecologist. Every year, nearly 10,000 breast cancer sufferers experience a dangerous delay in diagnosis because doctors initially don't believe their lumps are suspicious. By following a mammogram with a sonogram, your doctor can detect whether a lump is a fluid-filled cyst (which is typically benign) or a solid mass (which may or may not be cancerous). Sonograms are especially beneficial if you're premenopausal: Younger women typically have dense breast tissue, and since a mammogram has a harder time "seeing" abnormalities in dense breasts, for these women having a mammogram and a sonogram is most effective.

Health mistake #4: Tending to ignore changes in your menstrual flow

Normal menstrual flow is defined as what's normal for you. Subtle changes, such as the occasional period that is shorter or heavier than normal, are okay, because everything from your diet to travel can have a slight effect. But if your flow is markedly different than usual -- for instance, much heavier or much lighter, for more than just one cycle -- you should see your M.D. right away. It may signal anything from pregnancy to endometriosis.

Health mistake #5: Steering clear of all over-the-counter medications while you're pregnant

The FDA and most doctors agree that you can take many OTC drugs during pregnancy -- as long as you check with your OB/GYN first. In general, Tylenol, antihistamines and medications for indigestion, diarrhea and other stomach troubles are okay -- again, only with a doctor's permission. Two big exceptions: ibuprofen (which can impede the development of the fetus's circulatory system) and aspirin (which can increase the amount of time it takes to bring your baby to term, prolong delivery and cause excessive bleeding before and after delivery).

Health mistake #6: Thinking you can't give your guy a yeast infection and vice versa

Truth is, it's possible to transmit a yeast infection to him during intercourse and oral sex, says Lebowitz. "Plus, often guys who get them have no symptoms," she says. "So if you have a chronic yeast infection that won't clear or keeps recurring, ask your guy to see his internist, who can determine if you're ping-ponging an infection back and forth, in which case you should both get antifungal treatments from your doctors."

Health mistake #7: Assuming that your weight has no effect on your gynecological health

Being too thin can result in irregular or nonexistent periods. And having excess fat tissue stokes your production of estrogen, an overabundance of which can increase your chance of developing breast and uterine cancers. What's more, overweight women who take the Pill have a greater chance of experiencing contraceptive failure, because the excess estrogen produced by fat cells can change the way the hormones in the Pill are metabolized. Research has also shown that obese pregnant women may be twice as likely to deliver stillborn babies.

Health mistake #8: Believing that the Pill raises breast cancer risk

Good news: A recent and definitive Johns Hopkins University study of 10,000 women found that no matter what type of birth control pills women used or how long they took them, oral contraceptives had no impact on breast cancer risk whatsoever.

Article taken from Redbook


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