This awareness leads to important, dedicated clinics and research and we strive to improve access to knowledge so that women may make educated decisions about their own health.  Under the umbrella of “women’s health” we include diseases that occur uniquely in women, more frequently in women, or affect women differently than men. 

For better and for worse, the umbrella is enormous, and we do have a wealth of potentially conflicting information as new research emerges.  

Over years of practice, I understand the importance of the fact that even as women, each of us is different. Menopause is a good example. Some women will have uncomplicated periods and once their periods stop, they will never know what a hot flash feels like.

Then there are women who have symptoms that are easy to manage, while others are quite incapacitated by the ordeal. In this case, perception is reality. Women in this latter group will find it difficult to function in their daily lives without replacing the hormones that their body is craving. Fortunately, we now have many options.  

"The risk of breast cancer in association with taking hormones for more than five years may be increased by eight in 10,000..."

Seek the help you need

The only way to get individual advice is to see a health practitioner who will help us put information in context of our own situation or findings. Research and statistical findings help guide our decisions, but what we do remains an individual reality.

The risk of breast cancer in association with taking hormones for more than five years may be increased by eight in 10,000 — but if you have a genetic predisposition to this type of cancer, your risk may be as high as 50 percent even without hormone supplements.

Fibroids are benign tumors of the uterus and if we look for them, we can find them in up to 50 percent of women. While some women require surgery as treatment, most will have little to no symptoms and do not need any kind of intervention. Once again, individual counseling is key.

We do have some undeniable facts: menopause will come and we still have a third of our lives to live without the benefits of functioning ovaries. This harsh reality is of concern for young women at and over 40 who are hoping to get pregnant — yet there is no technology to date that will make their ovarian follicles younger, despite their overall good health.

What we do in our youth will influence our risks as seniors, but eating healthy, exercising, and refraining from smoking will be great for us at any point. Exercise will help prevent cancer, heart disease, and dementia.  Not smoking will help our skin, teeth, and bones.

It is a wonderful time to be a woman in Canada for most of us, but for those who suffer violence, we know that we have not yet broken all the barriers to safe reporting and prevention. Women’s health is key to healthy populations and our focus on improving access to care remains invaluable.