Women at the centre of CUH’s dedication to patient care
The advice of healthcare staff and the personal stories of female patients show how lives are enhanced by the commitment to the wellbeing of women by the teams at Cork University Hospital and Cork University Maternity Hospital
CUH and CUMH delivering excellent care to women of all ages
enhancing the lives of female patients is the key focus of the health tips and personal patient stories told on this page, as well as in the companion booklet distributed with the Irish Examiner.
The healthcare staff of CUH, CUMH and the Lee Clinic offer advice and tell stories which deliver valuable insights for women on health services available, as well as self-care and other tips across topics from cancer and
menopause to incontinence, fertility and bone health.
By examining your breasts once a month you will become familiar with how they look and feel, therefore, you will notice if there is a new change. PICTURE ISTOCK
Breast cancer: Know the signs, steps to reduce the risks
Susan Walsh, Candidate Advanced Nurse Practitioner, CUH, offers vital advice on breast cancer
What is the population risk of breast cancer?
Breast cancer is a common disease. In the general population about one in eight women in Ireland will develop breast cancer before the age of 74 years. It is more common over the age of 50.
When should you commence breast cancer screening?
Women aged 50 to 69 with an average risk of breast cancer are offered mammograms every two years via Breast Check the National Breast Screening Programme. It is important to note that screening tests have benefits and limitations; further information is available on the HSE website. You can check to ensure your name is on the register or update your details by logging onto the HSE website.
Early detection of breast cancer is important for long-term prognosis and survival. PICTURE ISTOCK
Breast cancer awareness
As you can imagine working in a symptomatic breast clinic, I meet many women who are worried about a new change or symptom in their breast. I always ask the woman if she examines her breasts regularly. The most common answers are “No, I don’t know how to examine myself ”, “I don’t know what I’m looking for” and “my breasts are lumpy anyway, so I wouldn’t know what to look for”. The simple answer is, like the words of a famous sports slogan, “JUST DO IT”.
By examining your breasts once a month you will become familiar with how they look and feel, therefore, you will notice if there is a new change.
Some normal changes such as tenderness and general lumpiness can be linked to hormonal changes in your body such as your menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause. Early detection of breast cancer is important for long-term prognosis and survival.
For more information:
Irish Cancer Society
Marie Keating Foundation
Tel: 1800 200 700 | Tel: 01 635 3726
Breast Cancer Ireland
Tel: 01 516 0331
Health Service Executive
Joanna Twomey, in re.mission from cancer thanks to a CUH clinical trial.
Telling my kids I have cancer was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but CUH support got me through it
Joanna Twomey is a mother-of-four who’s spent the past 15 years living in Cork, where she’s the manager of a busy dental practice.
In September 2019, after a routine smear test, Joanna was diagnosed with cervical cancer. After that, her life became “a whirlwind”.
“That October, I had a radical hysterectomy and removed my ovaries, uterus, the whole lot. Despite all that, a month later the tumours had spread extensively. It was a very quick journey between my first diagnosis to discovering I had metastatic cancer.”
During this terrifying blur of surgeries and consultations, Joanna faced the most daunting prospect of all - breaking the news to her family.
“It actually shocked me how difficult it was to say it out loud. Telling my kids that I had cancer was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” she reflects.
The greatest hope that Joanna and her family clung on to during those early days was a clinical trial available at CUH.
“Obviously it’s a risk to go on any trial, but it’s a calculated risk. There were a lot of side effects from it, I have to say, but really the results I’ve had are so worth it. I’m currently in remission, purely thanks to the trial.
“I’ve gained so much from doing it, not just my health but also firm friendships with all the staff at CUH. From my gynaecologist, to my oncologist, my trial nurse and all the doctors there, they’re just absolutely lovely people. They’ve been brilliant, always clear about what they expected to happen from each treatment and what my options were. I can’t thank them enough.”
Hypnobirthing, for a comfortable birth
Hypnobirthing promotes an easier more comfortable birth by supporting relaxation techniques, visualisation and breathing techniques to help a woman cope with the birthing experience.
Classes at University Hospital Kerry
Hypnobirthing classes have been provided to the women booked with Maternity Services in University Hospital Kerry.
University Hospital Kerry has also designed and developed a Home from Home room to facilitate water immersion in labour and the use of low technological supports to promote physiological birth.
Prevention and treatment: It is important to have enough calcium in your diet and have sufficient vitamin D (sunshine vitamin) which helps you absorb calcium. Aim for 3 to 5 servings of calcium daily such as a glass of milk or matchbox-size of cheese. Get diet advice if you need to avoid dairy products. Discuss with your pharmacist or doctor before you take calcium or vitamin D supplements. Weight-bearing exercise (tennis, hockey, football, basketball, running, skipping and dancing) is important for good bone health as it stimulates bone growth, especially in childhood. Walking is also a weight-bearing exercise; be sure to change your pace intermittently and vary your routes.
Resistance training using weights, body weight or gym machines also promotes bone health. If you have been diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis it is recommended that you be assessed by a chartered physiotherapist with an interest in bone health. You will need to avoid high impact exercises and any movements that push your back into bending or twisting positions. They will consider your DEXA scan results, your medical history and your risk of fracture before prescribing an appropriate and individualised exercise programme with fitness, strength and balance exercises for you. Osteoporosis is treatable with medications which can change the rate of bone loss and significantly reduce the risk of future fractures so talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.
For more information:
There are some simple measures you can do to see if they help improve your symptoms.
These may include:
1) Lifestyle changes such as losing weight and cutting down on caffeine and alcohol (particularly so if you have urge symptoms).
2) Pelvic floor exercises, where you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles by squeezing them
3) Bladder training, where you learn ways to wait longer between needing to urinate and passing urine.
All patients are referred to the service by their GP or a CUMH gynaecology consultant. CUMH gynaecology consultants triage referrals and assign the appropriate investigations and assessments depending on the symptoms the patient in experiencing. CUMH is delighted to offer services to women in Ireland South to help with these often debilitating symptoms. Some women can be left housebound and suffering from anxiety and depression, straining relationships or not pursuing relationships. The use a multi-disciplinary approach to get each woman on the best individualised treatment plan that can help women get back to a better quality of life. It is important to note that while incontinence and other urogynaecological symptoms may be common, it shouldn’t be the norm. The clinics are a safe non-judgmental place for women of ages and backgrounds to voice their concerns and work in collaboration with their health care providers.
Bladder Training, A guide for women: Ann Humphreys, Advanced Nurse Practitioner in Urogynaecology and Women’s Health at CUMH, and her team work with women to manage the three most common urinary problems, namely frequency, urgency and urge leakage. This involves training to increase the time between visits to the toilet, pelvic floor exercises and following a urinary diary. The key concepts are outlined in ‘Let’s Talk Women’s Health’, the booklet which accompanies this CUH/CUMH-led information campaign on Women’s Health; see below.
This report on Women’s Health was also produced as an information booklet by the Irish Examiner in association with Cork University Hospital, entitled 'Let's Talk Women's Health'. It features contributions from the CUH and CUMH service teams spread across a range of departments, working to deliver healthcare services to women of all ages right across Munster, click to learn more. The CUH is currently raising funds and awareness (click) of a number of key health services for women. The Irish Examiner and CUH information booklet 'Let's Talk Women's Healthcare' is a core element in the hospital's current public information campaign on women's health services.
This CUH Women’s Health fundraising campaign is supported by Roche Diagnostics (click). Roche stated: “Roche is delighted to support the CUH charity in promoting awareness of Women's Health. At Roche we believe that Women’s Health must be a shared goal for us all. Roche is committed to women’s health at every stage of her life. We aspire to provide every woman with personalised healthcare — tailored not just to their clinical characteristics, but also to their personal preferences and priorities. These factors are front of mind when delivering the health treatments that any woman needs. We at Roche are uniquely positioned to help lead a global transformation in Women’s Health. Beyond our expertise across diagnostics and pharmaceuticals we also take an integrated approach to health care thanks to our many partnerships. Women’s Health must be a shared goal for us all.”