Women often put their health on the back burner to take care of families, careers, and because it’s a hassle going to the doctor. I want to take a bit of time, with the help of Toby Miller, APRN-CNP, to encourage you to take time and take care of yourself. We’re going to cover a variety of topics that are related to women’s health so grab a cup of coffee and let’s get started.
First, I want to introduce you to Toby Miller, APRN-CNP, owner of Integrity Women’s Center in Stillwater, OK. APRN-CNP stands for Advanced Practice Registered Nurse-Community Nurse Practitioner. Toby worked in labor and delivery for fifteen years, when she decided to specialize her skills; she knew she wanted to continue working with women. Toby has over 23 years of experience working in women’s healthcare and her scope of practice focuses on disease prevention and wellness, as well as gynecological services, annual checkups and routine healthcare. She loves her job and the long-lasting relationships that she is able to make with her patients while providing empathetic care. I asked Toby why she opened her own office and she said she wanted to provide a comfortable, inviting environment for women to come and get health care. Her staff is entirely made up of women and she treats women from adolescence to aging years. I can attest to the fact that when you walk into her office you immediately feel welcomed. The feel is not a doctor’s office at all and you do not get the feeling of being ran through the mill like cattle. You will not feel rushed like many doctors’ offices just trying to get people in and out. Funny side story, last time I was there Toby spent several minutes telling me about her new hair style and will often ask about my family and tell me about hers.
My first comment for Toby was about breast cancer awareness being all the rage and other issues getting overlooked. Since I know she is very conscious of breast cancer awareness, I asked her for a short statement about it and then we moved on to other issues. Her comment was that “breast cancer screening is a very individualized issue. Many factors need to be taken into account including, age, family history, age and number of family members diagnosed with breast cancer, etc. This should be discussed with a women’s healthcare provider. Most women will need to start yearly mammogram screening at the age of 40.” A lot of insurance companies will pay for that screening along with a baseline one-time screening between the age of 35 and 40. Self-breast exams are very important. So ladies, do not skip those monthly self-exams. I know for a fact that they can help you catch early issues. For more information on how to conduct a self-breast examination you can visit http://www.breastcancer.org.
We also discussed the dreaded yearly pap smear that all females, sexually active or twenty one years of age, should do. The pap smear checks for cervical cancer by collecting cells from the cervix. Some good news for you ladies, and I recommend asking your health care provider about, is that if the pap smear is done and HPV, human papillomavirus, is also tested for then you can go three to five years without having the dreaded pap, but Toby does recommend that you still do a well woman check-up once a year. That would probably include a general health exam, pelvic exam, and breast exam.
Another female related issue is menopause. Menopause is a natural biological process that marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years and generally happens around fifty years of age; however, many women will suffer from pre-menopausal symptoms years prior to this. Pre-menopausal and menopausal treatment is very individualized depending on the symptoms affecting the woman. Common symptoms are hot flashes, night sweats, emotional instabilities, insomnia, low energy, and vaginal symptoms. There are many hormonal and non-hormonal options for treatment of these symptoms. Unfortunately, unless you have a hysterectomy, there is no speedy way through this change in your life, and it will probably last at least a year. It’s best to be educated about what is going on in your body and be ready to take steps to deal with the symptoms.
All those things we’ve already talked about seem scary and like big deals. They are, but often over looked is the number one killer of women. Heart attacks. Toby stated that “the most common heart attack symptom in women is some type of pain, pressure, or discomfort in the chest but women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as neck, jaw, shoulder, or abdominal discomfort, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, sweating, dizziness, or unusual fatigue.” Prevention is the best and most affective source of preventing a heart attack. You should know your family history for heart disease, do regular checks of your blood pressure, and get yearly cholesterol and blood sugar checks. Staying active, managing stress, eating a healthy diet, and if you’re a smoker, stop smoking will go a long way in preventing heart attacks. Visit www.goredforwomen.org more information on heart attacks and heart disease in women.
In closing, ladies, make sure and take time to take care of your body. You will have a harder time taking care of your family if you are not feeling good and it’s easier to stay on top of your health care than to wait until you have an issue that takes a lot of care. There are some great physicians along the Corridor and find a good one who will take time and listen to your concerns and give you good treatment options. Advances in technology are amazing in helping prevent disease, take advantage of what is available to you.
Special thanks to Toby Miller, APRN-CNP for taking time to answer my questions and for providing a comfortable place for women to get health care. If you are a woman in the Stillwater area looking for health care check out Integrity Women’s Center, www.integritywomenscenter.com, tell her Missy sent you. https://www.facebook.com/integritywomenscenter/