HEALTH: Women's nurse Marcia Hunt shares the importance of looking after your health at the Burnett Inland's Women in Ag Day in Durong.
HEALTH: Women's nurse Marcia Hunt shares the importance of looking after your health at the Burnett Inland's Women in Ag Day in Durong. Jessica McGrath

Eight health conditions women need to look out for

THERE are many simple ways women can look after their health to prevent health conditions.

Women's health nurse Marcia Hunt has spent more than 50 years working with women in the North and South Burnett.

"It's just been really interesting, the over 53 years I've been nursing, to watch the progress, the way it's gone, the research, the changes and how things have improved," she said.

Ms Hunt told the women at the Burnett Inland Women in Agriculture Day, in Durong on March 3, the treatments for health conditions have improved significantly during her career.

When she first started nursing in the mid-1960s, cervical cancer was one of the biggest killers for women.

"I'm passionate about women's health, I am passionate about health and caring for ourselves and preventative health I think is really the way to go," she said.

For Queensland Women's Week, Ms Hunt outlined eight health conditions women should get checked.

1. Dental health

Ms Hunt said it was really important for everybody to have good dental health.

"If they have any holes in their teeth, if you've got cavities, teeth that are falling out, it has a major impact on your health, especially your heart," she said.

Ms Hunt recommends regular check-ups at the dentist to maintain good dental health.

2. Bowel cancer

When women turn 50 they receive a national bowel cancer screening kit in the mail.

"It might just be the present that saves your life," Ms Hunt said.

Ms Hunt said only 48 per cent of women use the kits.

"There's something like half of the kits that go out come back with some sort of an abnormality on them," she said.

The kit does not necessarily look for cancer, but any changes present.

"It is a very simple test, it comes in the mail, you can fill it out and you can use it and then send it back, if it comes back clear, great," Ms Hunt said.

"However, if it comes back that there's a change, there is a whole progression of management that is done and you are cared for."

3. Breast cancer

Ms Hunt recommends women utilise the free breast cancer screenings which are available to older women.

"Women from 40 onwards are entitled to a free mammogram," she said.

It is important to do the screenings which pick up the changes before they can be physically noticed.

"It's got to be a good size before we feel it, whereas the breast screen picks it up when it's smaller than a grain of rice," Ms Hunt said.

4. Cervical cancer

Ms Hunt has also worked as a sexual health nurse in the Burnett.

In her role she has done pap smears to assist with cervical cancer screenings over the years.

The pap test has recently changed from every 2 years to 5 years.

This change is dependant on women receiving the new test introduced two years ago which looks for up to nine different viruses.

"Once you've had the new test done, we are looking for the virus," she said.

"The difference is when we send it down to pathology they now look for a virus, not cell changes."

Women are now not required to do pap smears until the age of 25, rather than 12 months after becoming sexually active.

"There has been absolutely no change in the rate of cancer of the cervix in that group under 25 with all of the pap smears we have done in the years gone by," Ms Hunt said.

5. Ovarian cancer

Ms Hunt said there was currently no official test available for ovarian cancer.

Symptoms she often looks for is any ladies who have been menopausal for more than 12 months and have started experiencing bleeding again.

Ms Hunt would then refer the patient to the doctor for further testings.

Another symptom the nurse looks for is bloating in the tummy which is still present first thing in the morning.

Her patients also often have lower back pain.

6. Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis, when the bones become fragile, affects one in four men and many more women.

"As our oestrogen drops off and we are getting particularly into those menopausal years and we haven't got that oestrogen there to help and absorb all of that calcium that we need for our strong bones, so our bones become more brittle," Ms Hunt said.

With these more fragile bones, a stumble or fall could lead to broken bones.

Bone density tests are available to test the strength of the patient's bones.

People with a family history of osteoporosis are encouraged to get a bone density test when they are at least 50-years-old.

"We are going to find more and more younger people with osteoporosis because of their diet which cuts out milk and cheese," Ms Hunt said.

The best way to prevent osteoporosis is to do regular weight-bearing exercises.

Ms Hunt recommends doing push-ups at home against the wall, kitchen sink or even the cattle saleyard rails.

"While you're waiting for the jug to boil you could be leaning in and doing some push-ups," she said.

A healthy lifestyle with exercise and calcium in the diet is crucial to help prevent osteoporosis.

7. Bladder management

Ms Hunt said something that needs to be talked about is bladder management.

"So many women have come to me and they've had major problems for such a long time," she said.

Anyone who has any issues with bladder management should see a doctor.

"So many women have issues with relationship to a little bit of dribbling through to major incontinence issues and that's something we need to talk about," Ms Hunt said.

"There's a lot of things we can do to help."

8. Heart health

"Cardiac arrest is one of the biggest causes of death in women aged over 50," Ms Hunt said.

Women over the age of 50 should have regular heart checks to lower the risk of strokes and heart attacks.

"There's a lot of little things we can do, we can get our weights down to their right level, we can get out there for a brisk walk where we raise our heart rate right up," she said.

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