Find helpful information on women's health issues on the NHS choices website, by clicking the links below:
NHS Health links: Women 18-39 yrs
NHS Health links: Women 40-60 yrs
The more you know about your pregnancy and your options, the more you are likely to feel in control. The information given here is based on The Pregnancy Book, which your midwife should give you at your first appointment.
Before you are pregnant
Your pregnancy and labour
Cervical Screening (Smear Tests)
Cervical screening is a method of preventing cervical cancer by detecting abnormal cells in the cervix (lower part of the womb). Cervical screening is not a test for cancer, but it is a test to check the health of the cervix.
Most women's test results show that everything is normal. But for one in 20 women, the test will show some changes in the cells of the cervix. Most of these changes will not lead to cervical cancer and the cells will go back to normal on their own. In some cases, the abnormal cells need to be treated to prevent them becoming a problem later.
NHS Health Links - Cervical Screening Information
Since September 2008 there has been a national programme to vaccinate girls aged 12-13 against human papilloma virus (HPV). There is also a three-year catch up campaign that will offer the HPV vaccine (also known as the cervical cancer jab) to 13-18 year old girls.
The programme is delivered largely through secondary schools, and consists of three injections that are given over a six-month period. In the UK, more than 1.4 million doses have been given since the vaccination programme started.
What is Human papilloma virus (HPV)?
Human papilloma virus (HPV) is the name of a family of viruses that affect the skin and the moist membranes that line your body, such as those in your cervix, anus, mouth and throat. These membranes are called the mucosa.
There are more than 100 different types of HPV viruses, with about 40 types affecting the genital area. These are classed as high risk and low risk.
How do you get HPV?
Types of HPV that affect the skin can be passed on by skin contact with an affected person. The types of HPV that affect the mouth and throat can be passed on through kissing. Genital HPV is usually spread through intimate, skin to skin, contact during sex. You can have the genital HPV virus for years and not have any sign of it.
How HPV can cause cervical cancer?
Most HPV infections are harmless or cause genital warts, however some types can cause cervical cancer. Most HPV infections clear up by themselves, but in some people the infection can last a long time. HPV infects the cells of the surface of the cervix where it can stay for many years without you knowing.
The HPV virus can damage these cells leading to changes in their appearance. Over time, these changes can develop into cervical cancer. The purpose of cervical screening (testing) is to detect these changes, which, if picked up early enough, can be treated to prevent cancer happening. If they are left untreated, cancer can develop and may lead to serious illness and death.
HPV Facts and information: Cancer Research UK
NHS Health Links:NHS Choices - HPV Vaccination
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK. About 46,000 women get breast cancer in the UK each year. Most of them (8 out of 10) are over 50, but younger women, and in rare cases men, can also get breast cancer.
Symptoms of breast cancer
The first symptom of breast cancer that most women notice is a lump or an area of thickened tissue in their breast. Most lumps (90%) are not cancerous, but it is always best to have them checked by your doctor.
See your GP if you notice any of the following:
- a lump or area of thickened tissue in either breast
- a change in the size or shape of one or both breasts
- discharge from either of your nipples (which may be streaked with blood)
- a lump or swelling in either of your armpits
- dimpling on the skin of your breasts
- a rash on or around your nipple
- a change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast
- pain in either of your breasts or armpits that is not related to your period
Want to know more?
The menopause is sometimes known as the 'change of life' and is marked by the ending of menstruation (when a woman's periods stop). In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach the menopause is 52.
A woman is said to have reached the menopause once she has not had a period for one year. After this point, she can be described as post-menopausal.
These links all come from trusted resources but if you are unsure about these or any other medical matters please contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice.