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Check yourself before you wreck yourself

by Mina Mazumder January 31, 2017
Check yourself before you wreck yourself

Concordia’s Health Services hosts a workshop on women’s common health concerns

Vaginal health, sexually-transmitted infections and breast health were some of the things addressed during Concordia’s Health Services workshop on women’s health.  The workshop, which was held in the conference room of the Health Services department on Jan. 25, addressed many common health concerns for women.

Louise Carline, a nurse at Health Services, and Gaby Szabo, a health promotion specialist, led the discussion.

During the workshop, Carline and Szabo focused largely on vaginal health. Carline stressed that Pap tests are crucial.  “[Pap tests] are important because they reduce your chances of cervical cancer by 70 per cent,” said Carline.

She described the examination process, where a doctor inserts a speculum—a plastic or metal tool used to dilate body orifices—into the vagina to evaluate the cervix.

Doctors recommend women have their first Pap test when they become sexually active, Carline said. She said the test should be done annually.

“A Pap test should be done mid-cycle, and you should avoid intercourse 24 hours before the test,” Carline said.

She also recommended that women, as well as men, get vaccinated against the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is the most common sexually transmitted infection. Concordia’s Health Services offers the Gardasil vaccine. The vaccine is covered by Concordia health insurance for Quebec residents.  However, the cost is not covered by government insurance for international students.

Szabo also stressed the importance of getting tested for sexually transmitted infections. “70 per cent of women and men will experience a sexually-transmitted infection at some point in their life,” Szabo said. “If you are sexually active, the recommendation is to get tested every six to 12 months.”

Women are also prone to getting yeast infections and urinary tract infections. Carline said it is estimated that women will have at least one yeast infection in their lifetime.

“[A yeast infection] is caused by a fungal infection brought on by antibiotics, stress, hormones or too much sugar in your diet,” said Carline. She added that, if a woman notices any symptoms, including itchiness or any vaginal discharge, she should see a nurse right away.

Urinary tract infections are also common among women, said Carline. They are caused by “bacteria that creeps up into your bladder which causes pain during urination,” she said.

A common symptom of this kind of infection is the presence of blood in urine. One important way of preventing the infection, Carline said, is to urinate after sexual intercourse. “By urination, you are eliminating that bacteria that can creep up during sexual contact,” she said.

As for menstrual cramps, Carline advised women to be active and eat healthy.

Szabo also discussed the importance of taking contraception seriously. In Canada, half of the pregnancies that occur are unplanned, she said. Intrauterine contraceptive devices (IUDs) are popular among young women, Carline said, adding that emergency contraception—Plan B—is also available for women, but is intended for emergencies only. Plan B is most effective within the first 72 hours after unprotected intercourse, Carline said.

The specialists also discussed breast health. Szabo said regular breast self-examinations are no longer recommended because, often, women only detect lumps when they are already fairly large

Concordia students can have their breasts checked at Concordia Health Services when they come in for a Pap test.

For more information, students can drop by Concordia’s the Health Services department on the second floor of the GM Building, or visit their website.

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