Survey: Women need more health info, support from doctors

Breast Cancer Concept. Women's Healthcare. Painful Woman Touching her Thorax

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (West Virginia News Service) — It’s National Women’s Health Week, and a new survey finds many women feel they’re in the dark about basic health-risk factors, despite heightened concerns about wellness during the pandemic.

Nearly one-third of women said they’ve delayed medical care in the past 18 months.

Dr. Andrea Klemes, chief medical officer of the primary-care physician’s network MDVIP, said nine in ten women are unaware heart disease is the leading cause of death in women.

“This is worrisome as a physician because there are other things we’ve learned, that women are more concerned about cancer and arthritis than they are about heart disease,” Klemes outlined. “And heart disease is the number one killer of women.”

State data show West Virginia women have significantly higher rates of chronic conditions like asthma compared with men.

The survey by MDVIP and Ipsos found a majority of respondents don’t know consuming alcohol increases breast-cancer risk, and more than 78% said they had never been screened for inflammatory markers. Nearly seven in ten women surveyed said they’re more concerned about COVID-19 than cancer or heart disease.

Klemes added many report the pandemic has affected their physical and emotional health.

“More than half the women were feeling anxious, stressed, depressed, but yet, many of them didn’t ask for help,” Klemes pointed out. “So, you need to know that if there are things going on, you have to reach out to your physician, and you need a physician who has the time.”

The survey indicated physicians could do a better job relating to their female patients. Klemes noted nearly one in three, especially younger women, said they felt rushed during their appointments, or their concerns aren’t taken seriously.

“The survey showed one in three were not comfortable talking to their doctor about things like mental health, or sexual function,” Klemes emphasized. “And so, we screen for those things to open that door, so that it’s easier for patients to talk about it.”

According to America’s Health Rankings, smoking also poses a major health risk for the more than 33% of West Virginia women who vape or use cigarettes.

One study estimated the probability of living to age 80 at 38% for female smokers, and 70% for women who don’t smoke.