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It’s good to look after our health, and regular health checks can help detect early warning signs of disease or illness before they become a more significant issue and give you the chance of early treatment. In this article, we explain the regular checks for Women.

It’s good to look after our health, and regular health checks can help detect early warning signs of disease or illness before they become a more significant issue and give you the chance of early treatment. In this article, we explain the regular checks for Women.

Be in charge of your health and schedule in appointments regularly. Use a method that works for you. That might mean yearly appointments close to your birthday or start of the year—track appointments in a diary, calendar, or on your phone. You can always bring someone you trust with you to an appointment. With Women's Health Week September 6 - 10, MS Australia have resources and a hub to cover all your women's health questions. 

Easy English Resources

Breast Health
Reproductive Health
Women's Health

Main Topics

Breast Checks  
Breast Self Examination
Mammograms
Pap Smears Cervical Screening Test
Reproductive Health
Periods
Pregnancy and Fertility
Infertility
Contraception
Menopause
Further Information


Easy Read/ Easy English

Breast Health

Breast Health NSW Health
Breast Cancer Network Australia  - Accessible Resources Includes Audio files. 
Books Beyond Words – Looking After my breasts Fee applies.

Reproductive Health

Having your periods NSW Health
Problems with periods Council for Intellectual Disability
Menopause NSW Health
Having a Pap Test – Easy Read NSW Health
Books Beyond Words - Keeping Healthy Down Below
Contraception Council for Intellectual Disability
Contraception Family Planning Victoria

Women’s Health

Women’s Health Women With Disability Australia
Being a healthy Woman Family Planning NSW
Just Checking Family Planning NSW

Breast Checks 

Everyone’s breasts look and feel different. Some women have naturally lumpy breasts, or one breast larger than the other, or inverted nipples. Knowing what is normal for you, how to conduct a breast self-examination and when to see your doctor are all essential things to know.

Self-examination

Breast self-examinations should be done once a month, from your early 20’s. Checking your breasts regularly, helps you become familiar with what is typical, and notice if any changes occur. It is helpful to do this around the same time in your cycle each month.

You can do this somewhere you feel comfortable - in the bath or shower, or when you get dressed. Check all of your breast, armpits and up to your collarbone.

A diagram is available at McGrath Foundation Breast health understanding. Family Planning NSW also has some tips to help be breast aware.

Check for

  • Any new lump in your breast or underarm (armpit)
  • Thickening or swelling
  • Irritation or dimpling of the skin
  • Flaky skin or redness
  • Pulling in of your nipple
  • Pain in your nipple area
  • Nipple discharge (other than breast milk)
  • Any changes in the size or the shape of your breast
  • Pain in any area of your breast

If you find something and need an appointment with your doctor, you can bring someone with you to your breast screen appointment. 

Breast Screen Victoria have a factsheet about Screening for people with disabilities.

Mammograms

Mammograms are useful to show breast changes that are too small for you or your doctor to feel. The Australian Government funds a program called BreastScreen to test for early signs of breast cancer women aged 50 to 74. The eligibility is a mammogram (X-ray of the breasts) every 2 years. 

If you are between 40 – 49 years, you are eligible for free screening mammograms every 2 years. As the risk increases with age, you should discuss with your healthcare provider if you should have a free screening mammogram. Reminders may not be automatically sent to you.

If you are between 50 – 69 years, it is recommended to have a mammogram every 2 years. BreastScreen Australia offers free screening mammograms.

If you are between 70 – 75, reminders are sent for free screening mammograms every 2 years.

If you cannot have a complete breast screen, other tests such as ultrasound or clinical examination may be more appropriate.

The UK Word of Mouth Mammogram Network have a useful list of questions for wheelchair users.

BreastScreen – Screening for people with disability
Breast Cancer Network Australia  - Accessible Resources
Breast Cancer Network Australia – Facing breast cancer with a disability

Breast cancer awareness healthcare and medicine concept. Close up Asian woman holding pink breast cancer awareness ribbon on hands treatment charity, studio shot isolated on white background (Breast cancer awareness healthcare and medicine concept. Cl 

Pap smears – Cervical Screening test

A cervical Screening test has replaced the pap test as the screening test to detect cancer of the cervix.

You are eligible for subsidised Cervical Screening if you are:

  • Aged 25 – 74 years of age
  • Have ever been sexually active
  • Have a cervix

It makes no difference if you:

  • Are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or straight
  • Have had the HPV vaccination or not
  • Are no longer sexually active
  • Have been through menopause
  • Have been with only one sexual partner
  • Have experienced traditional cutting or circumcision
  • Have had a baby

If you are pregnant, let your health care provider know first.

Routine screening starts at age 25. You are eligible for your first test when you turn 25.

If you are over 25 years of age and have never had a Pap test, schedule an appointment to have a cervical screening test.

If you have had a Pap test, your first cervical screening test is due 2 years after your last pap test.

After that, cervical screening tests are only every 5 years if your results are typical.

Cancer Council Cervical Screening
PapScreen Victoria
 
woman showing question mark on naked belly  

Reproductive Health 

Good reproductive health allows women to decide if and when to have children. Reproductive health can be affected by diseases, access to contraceptives, and issues around infertility.

Periods 

Girls have their first period during puberty. Often that is about the age of 12 or 13 years old, but can be as young as 9, or be as late as 16.

Menstruation (called periods) is bleeding from the vagina that happens about once a month, as a regular part of the menstrual cycle.  During this cycle, the hormones make the uterine lining get thicker, ready in case of pregnancy. Hormones also cause an egg to release from an ovary, which is known as ovulation.

Problems with periods can include, heavy bleeding, pain, irregular periods and if you notice changes, you should speak to your health care provider.

You should visit your doctor if you notice changes like:

  • Your periods are heavier.
  • Your periods last longer than 8 days.
  • Your periods are shorter than 3 weeks apart.
  • The pattern of your period changes.
  • Your periods stopped, and you’re not sure why.
  • You are bleeding after sex, or in between periods.
  • You are bleeding after menopause.
  • You have severe period pain.
  • You are passing clots bigger than a 50c piece.
  • You have heavy periods and are fatigued - your GP can check Iron Levels. Low iron is common for women with heavy bleeding.
  • You can speak to your doctor if there is any reason that your periods are affecting your wellbeing or enjoyment of life.

Pregnancy and Fertility

Fertility is your ability to have a child.

There are lots of different things that happen to a woman’s body when she is pregnant.

  • Periods will stop.
  • Some women may feel sick in the stomach.
  • Some get sore breasts.
  • Other women feel well.

Every woman is different and will experience different things when they are pregnant. The best way for a woman to know if she is pregnant is to see a doctor and take a pregnancy test. You can also self-test with a pregnancy test at home. They are available from most pharmacies or chemists. As part of your pregnancy care, you will have check-ups, tests and scans to make sure both you, and the baby are healthy. You can learn about the tests and pregnancy care at Pregnancy, Birth, Baby.

Planning Pregnancy and pregnancy choices from Family Planning NSW discuss health, pregnancy test, and pregnancy choices.

Infertility

Infertility is classed as when you have had 12 months of unprotected sex, and you have not become pregnant.

If you choose, Doctors can help you by investigating why you have not fallen pregnant. This can be an emotional journey. Talking to a doctor, counsellor, or psychologist can help cope with these emotions and decide what to do next and which tests you might choose to have.

You may have blood tests, ultrasound, that includes internal ultrasounds and lastly a laparoscopy or hysteroscopy testing. You can read about each test here.

Contraception 

Contraceptions are methods to avoid pregnancy.

Understanding the different contraception choices, what is safe sex and what are the symptoms of sexually transmissible infections (STIs) are important to your sexual health. The risk of (STIs) is a lifelong issue to be considered for all new relationships and in your contraception choices.

For information on pro’s and con’s of various contraception methods, Jean Hailes outlines each option, how they work and benefits and pitfalls of each.

Safe Sex and Fun is a resource suite for teaching people with intellectual disability about positive, safe sex messages. Parents, family members, support workers, advocates, teachers and clinicians who want to talk with a person with intellectual disability about sexuality may find Sex, Safe and Fun useful.

Menopause 

Menopause is a significant life stage for women, and coping with the changes and finding useful information on help available is an important step to understanding what is happening.

Menopause is defined as the final menstrual period. Menopause can happen naturally at the expected age, prematurely, or early. It happens when there has been a change in a woman’s reproductive hormones and the ovaries no longer release eggs. Women may begin to experience symptoms at perimenopause, the stage before natural menopause.

Jean Hailes for Women’s Health covers a wide variety of topics around perimenopause, menopause and has information and resources for you to make choices.

For rural and remote women, Wellfemme Women’s Health Services deliver specialised menopause care via telehealth and phone.

Women experiencing menopause may have other checks for osteoporosis, thyroid, vitamin D and blood pressure, as menopause can mask symptoms of these conditions.

doctor is showing xray image senior woman patient picture id997076972 

Further information

Council for Intellectual Disability.
Jean Hailes for Women’s Health.
Family Planning NSW or your state or territory Family Planning Service. 
Being a Healthy Woman – For women with intellectual disability.
Wellfemme.
Women With Disability Australia – Our Site.
Women With Disabilities Australia – Women’s Health.
Women with Disabilities Victoria – Health fact Sheet.
Women’s Health West – Sunrise Women’s Groups.

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