Women’s Health

Home Women’s Health
by Joshua Rawlings

There are several conditions that are more common in women than in men. The following section will outline the most common conditions that affect women as well as offering advice on how to spot the signs of an illness and how to go about getting the right treatment.

Heart disease

Heart disease kills more British women than any other condition. Heart disease can be caused by a number of factors; these include smoking, diabetes, being overweight and taking the contraceptive pill whilst smoking.

Smoking results in the narrowing of the arteries which restricts blood flow; if blood flow to the heart is limited this may result in a heart attack.

Research suggests that those who smoke and take the contraceptive pill are 30 times more likely to suffer from heart disease; this is due to the increased risk of the formation of blood clots.

Obesity puts extreme strain on all the organs and muscles, but is particularly dangerous for the heart. Doing regular exercise, eating well and refraining from smoking can dramatically reduce the likelihood of suffering from heart disease.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer affects more women than any other cancer. Those who have a relative who has suffered from breast cancer are more likely to be affected by the condition in the future.

Breast cancer is also more common in those who smoke, drink or are overweight and in women who have no children or those who choose to have children later in life.

Breast cancer is most common in middle-aged and older women. Symptoms include swelling or the formation of lumps in the breast as well as discharge from the nipple and pain in the breast. If you think you may have any of the above symptoms you should consult your GP as quickly as possible.

Treatment will depend on the nature of the cancer and may include having one or both breasts removed and undergoing a course of radiotherapy or chemotherapy. If the cancer is diagnosed early the chance of survival is significantly higher.

Cervical cancer

The number of women dying from cervical cancer has decreased significantly in recent years thanks to the NHS screening programme.

Routine smear tests enable women to be screened for evidence of cervical cancer; this usually leads to an early diagnosis, which significantly increases the chance of survival. Currently women over the age of 25 are invited to attend a routine smear test every 3-5 years. Symptoms usually include bleeding between periods, pain during sexual intercourse and odorous discharge.

Women who have had several sexual partners and have not used contraception are more likely to suffer from cervical cancer; those who smoke are twice as likely to be diagnosed with this condition.

If diagnosed early, cervical cancer may be treated very effectively. It is important to attend smear tests and consult your GP if you experience any of the symptoms listed above.

Infertility and PCOS

Infertility can be a source of heartache for many women. Many women have decreased fertility as a result of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS); this condition involves the formation of a number of cysts on the ovaries.

PCOS affects between 5 and 7% of British women and is a significant contributor to female infertility. Fertility can be drastically improved by having a healthy diet and refraining from smoking and drinking heavily; exercise can also increase the chances of conception.

Weight is extremely important when considering fertility; being overweight can prevent you from conceiving naturally.

There are options available for having a baby if you are infertile; these include IVF (in vitro fertilisation) treatments, fertility drugs and hormone supplements.

Adoption may also be considered as an option. IVF is available on the NHS but is rigorously controlled and patients must satisfy a number of criteria before they are granted this treatment; people who have problems with drink, drugs or smoking and those who are extremely overweight will not be offered treatment on the NHS for example.


Osteoporosis affects 3 million British women each year. This condition affects the bones, making them brittle and fragile. In extreme cases the bones may become deformed; this can commonly be seen in elderly women whose spine bends causing them to be hunched when standing up.

Post-menopausal women are most at risk of developing osteoporosis; people who have low body weight and those who smoke or drink heavily may also be more likely to suffer from osteoporosis.

If there is a family history of osteoporosis this may increase the chances of an individual developing the condition.

It is important to have a high intake of calcium and vitamin D in order to strengthen the bones; calcium is abundant in dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt.

Hormone therapy may also help to combat the ailments associated with osteoporosis; this often appears in the form of hormone replacement therapy (HRT).