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Women in Midlife Skipping the Doctor
DAYTON -- A health alert for women: doctors say our lives have gotten so busy that it's endangering women's health because women are skipping important exams.
When Amanda Miller started having symptoms of menopause she went to the health food store instead of her doctor.
I tried the vitamin route before I turned to my doctor," she says. "It wasn't doing anything.
Now Amanda's getting relief after seeing her physician.
Dr. Scott Bembry, an OB-GYN, says about half of the patients he sees for menopause symptoms are skipping preventive exams and screenings, including pap smears, mammograms and screening colonoscopy.
You may miss a disease process to the point that it's later and harder to treat, he says.
In fact, women's health experts say it's pretty common for women at midlife to skip seeing their doctors. They're often still taking care of kids along with aging relatives, while holding down jobs and leading busy social lives. Kathy Smith is one of those women and admits she does worry about missing something.
I was the caretaker for my parents, and I started a new business, and I just didn't want to go to the doctor one more time, Smith says.
Around the kitchen table with her friends, Debbie Bulger laughs as she says, I don't want to admit that I'm getting older. Debbie and their other friend Gayle Farmer don't skip the doctor, but all three women admit they've been surprised at times by how their health, at midlife, has changed.
It just kind of creeped up on me, Gayle says.
Dr. Holly Thacker of the Cleveland Clinic says women beginning the second half of their lives need more than just mammograms and pap smears. Doctors also need to check their weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, thyroid, vitamin D and bone density.
And midlife is a good time for women to evaluate their medical providers.
Women should seek a medical provider who's interested in menopause and mid-life women's health," Thacker says. "They think they're going through menopause, and that's a complete misnomer. You don't go through it like you're passing through a town.
Dr. Bembry adds, What a woman should look for is a doctor who will listen to her symptoms and listen to her needs and explore what the options are.
Debbie and Kathy say they think they need to do just that.
I think someone who has a good rapport, you don't feel rushed with, said Kathy.
Gayle recently found a new doctor. She observes, I'm not shy, so I don't mind asking the questions! The friends agree while they do have more questions about their health, they are making the most of this time in their lives. Gayle says, I'm pretty happy. I'll be 60 in August, but that's OK. I can live with that, and Kathy adds, You've got to make the most of whatever it is.
Doctors say midlife and menopause are the perfect time to improve health habits, get up to date on screenings and exams, and work with their health care providers to chart the second half of their adulthood. If you do decide to look for a new provider for specializes in mid-life and menopause, be sure to ask how much of her practice is made up of women in this age group.
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