Five women's health myths busted

STAY HEALTHY: New Directions Carbal Medical Centre midwife Norma Slater and doctor Christine Tran help keep women in Warwick healthy.
STAY HEALTHY: New Directions Carbal Medical Centre midwife Norma Slater and doctor Christine Tran help keep women in Warwick healthy. Elyse Wurm

WHEN it comes to health, sometimes you don't know what you don't know.

Next week is Women's Health Week - the ideal time to shed some light on some lesser-known facts about the way a woman's body works.


1. Pap smears are still needed after a hysterectomy

Dr Christine Tran from Carbal Medical Centre said when women no longer have a cervix, they should still undergo cancer screening.

"Theoretically it's not cervical cancer but there is still a chance the cells could be present anywhere," Dr Tran said.

"The procedure is essentially the same as a pap smear but because you don't have a cervix it's called a vault (smear)."


2. Breast tissue extends to your armpit

Self-checking for breast cancer has gone out of fashion a little bit, but Dr Tran says it is still recommended and it is important to do so correctly.

"When you're self-examining, you should feel all the way into your armpits because the tissue extends to your armpit," Dr Tran said.


3. STIs can affect fertility

Dr Tran said screening for sexually transmitted infections annually was a good idea because sometimes they did not present symptoms.

STIs that become chronic can also cause problems with fertility.

"There's a lot known with chlamydia and gonorrhoea classically causing fertility issues due to inflammation and scarring," Dr Tran said.


4. Pregnancy is possible while breastfeeding

It is recommended women start using contraception six weeks after giving birth as it is possible to fall pregnant before a period returns.

"It's less likely but there is a risk, it has happened before. We recommend contraception fairly soon after," Dr Tran said.

A progesterone-only form is available if breastfeeding.


5. Doctors can assist with domestic violence support

Women who are concerned about their safety when with a partner can seek help from a doctor.

Dr Tran said a GP could link women to support services.

"If you're not sure where to go, your GP is a good place to start," Dr Tran said.

"If the GP was really worried they could contact the domestic violence hotline and could organise refuge."

Topics:  carbal medical centre contraception pap smear women's health

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