The Latest

Candy Crushes 10 Questions About Women’s Health

COL Candy Wilson, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, assisting a patient. (Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joe Yanik)
Expert advice from a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

By Vivian Mason

November 4 is National Candy Day! But because we’re fresh out from the Halloween rush, the treat instead is information from Candy (that’s the USU way….always educating).

Air Force Colonel Candy Wilson, a women’s health nurse practitioner, nurse scientist and assistant professor in the Daniel K. Inouye Graduate School of Nursing at USU, answers 10 questions you’ve always wanted to know about women’s health. And, no, chocolate is not an answer.

Q. How much weight could you actually gain on Thanksgiving?
A. If you gain more than the turkey weighs, then you’re in trouble!

Q. Speaking of Thanksgiving, do cranberries really help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs)?
A. Cranberries don’t work for everyone, and they don’t treat UTIs that you already have. Some scientists think that cranberries have properties that make it harder for infection-causing bacteria to stick to the urinary tract walls. There are lots of other theories, too. Cranberry juice contains a lot of sugar, which can put you at risk for bladder infections and vaginal infections. So, you should increase fluids if you think that you have a urinary tract infection. There are also cranberry pills that you can buy, but they don’t have all the calories and sugar.

Q. What’s the difference between anxiety and depression?
A.It’s complicated. They’re both debilitating. They both can be very detrimental to your health. There’s a lot of overlap, too. There’s a difference between something that will make you anxious, but yet it can be empowering to get you through an event versus an anxiety where you’re pretty much debilitated by it. I would recommend that anyone with those concerns see their healthcare provider if treatment is needed. Many people can live with anxiety and depression, but it’s a partnership with the healthcare team.

Q. Is breast cancer inherited?
A.Part of it is. So, as far as having the gene that can cause breast cancer, it’s inherited. But there are lifestyle factors that can reduce your risk for breast cancer. One is to maintain a healthy weight. The main thing is to follow your primary care provider’s recommendations as far as screening for breast cancer. Even if you do develop breast cancer, the most important thing is finding it early and being able to treat it at an early versus late stage. So, don’t be scared of us. We’re here to help!

A nurse smiles as she helps a patient in a room with medical equipment
Tracy Stephens, a radiologic technologist at Naval Hospital Jacksonville prepares
a patient for a mammogram. (Image credit: U.S. Navy photo by Jacob Sippel)

Q. How do you protect yourself from STIs (sexually transmitted infections)?
A.With STIs, the best way to protect yourself is to reduce risk (and risk means unprotected sex). So, the best thing to do with a new partner is to 100% use barrier contraception every time. That also includes oral infections as well. Even for oral sex, it’s important to consider STIs because they can be transmitted through the oropharynx, definitely causing an increase in warts within the neck and throat that could put both men and women at risk for throat cancer. That goes for anal intercourse, too. Remember: 100% protection every time. Of course, abstinence is always the number one preferred method.

Q. What’s the difference between an ovarian cyst and ovarian cancer?
A.Women develop a cyst every month if they’re not on ovarian suppressive contraception, such as birth control pills. It’s a normal physiological function of the ovary. However, some cysts can grow, persist, become painful, and require surgical intervention. On the other hand, ovarian cancer is very insidious and difficult to diagnose early without an ultrasound. If you can catch it early, that’s your best prognosis. There’s really no way to prevent ovarian cancer. Talk with your healthcare provider if you have concerns so that your fears can be allayed and the appropriate screening done.

Q. What are the risk factors associated with heart disease?
A.Heart disease is not as prevalent in women before menopause. So there are some protective factors of our hormones that reduce women’s risk. However, that doesn’t mean that you’re off the hook. Before menopause, you still have to think about engaging in aerobic activity; maintain a healthy, balanced diet; eat lots of fruits and vegetables; and have conversations with your healthcare provider regarding your family history of heart disease.

Q. Why is bone health important for women?
A.It’s important because building strong bones early in life helps prevent bone weakening later. Make sure to maintain a healthy, consistent intake of calcium (1,200 mg) through diet or supplementation. Do impact (walking, running) and weight-bearing exercises.

Q. What are some of the top threats to women’s health?
A.For military women, it’s musculoskeletal injuries. These injuries can be reduced by getting regular exercise, doing appropriate training, and wearing well-fitting gear. Another way to reduce injury is to stop using tobacco, if you are using it. There’s a connection between tobacco use and musculoskeletal injury. And, specific to women, I’d say unplanned pregnancies.

Q. What three things can women do to better their health?
A.Maintain a healthy, balanced diet; be sure to exercise; and get regular checkups.

And for being such good sports, here’s a real candy Q&A:

How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop? 364 licks