Home' LOTL : July 2004 Contents HEALTH
BREAST CHECKS NECESSARY
Q Should I still be examining my breasts every month? I heard that
it's not necessary any more.
A The bottom line in this debate is the need for women to be 'breast aware' to ensure
early detection of breast cancer. The only way to do that is to examine your breasts.
The latest data suggest there really is no evidence that breast self examination reduces
death rates from breast cancer and various breast cancer organisations have changed
their recommendations about breast self-examination, down-playing its importance. The
Breast Cancer Action Group's approach is probably the most sensible. They
recommend we should be physically familiar with our breasts and seek professional
advice if we notice any changes. Abnormal changes can then be assessed with
mammography, ultrasound and biopsy as needed. Breast examination is still the
predominant method of detecting breast cancer in Australia. Just over 30 per cent of
breast cancers are found by mammographic screening. The rest are found by the
women themselves or their doctor by examining their breasts! This is especially the case
for younger women in whom mammography is not effective.
SEX AND SURGERY
Q I need a hysterectomy for heavy bleeding, but I am scared the
surgery will ruin my sex life. Will I still be normal?
A Removing your uterus does not make you any less of a woman. Sure, you can't
have a baby or a period, but otherwise your sexuality should be much the same. You'll
have to give up penetrating sex for about eight weeks after surgery until the top of the
vagina is healed, and some women do notice subtle changes in orgasm when the
cer vix and uterus are removed, but your ability to have an orgasm shouldn't change.
In fact, you may find you feel more like sex after the surgery if you don't have to put
up with heavy frequent periods. If your ovaries are removed, changing hormone levels
may cause vaginal dryness and irritation at first, but hormone replacement and
lubricants should prevent this. The majority of hysterectomies treat problems like
fibroids, heavy bleeding, endometriosis and prolapse. New treatments are available
for these conditions, so check that your hysterectomy is necessary. There could be
another option for you like endometrial ablation where the uterus is left intact but the
lining is destroyed. The Mirena IUD releases the hormone progesterone and is also
being used effectively to prevent hysterectomy in women with heavy periods.
LOTL'S health columnist is a lesbian GP on the NSW north coast.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and
are not intended as a substitute for medical advice. If you have
concerns about your health please consult your health practitioner.
THE LATEST DATA SUGGEST THERE REALLY IS NO
EVIDENCE THAT BREAST SELF EXAMINATION REDUCES
DEATH RATES FROM BREAST CANCER AND VARIOUS
BREAST CANCER ORGANISATIONS HAVE CHANGED
THEIR RECOMMENDATIONS ABOUT BREAST SELF-
EXAMINATION, DOWN-PLAYING ITS IMPORTANCE.
REMOVING YOUR UTERUS DOES NOT MAKE YOU
ANY LESS OF A WOMAN. SURE, YOU CAN'T HAVE
A BABY OR A PERIOD, BUT OTHERWISE YOUR
SEXUALITY SHOULD BE MUCH THE SAME.
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