Stay on top of health exams, ladiesWomen, let’s talk about your body, because in a society that shuns public discussions of women’s health, it be the difference between life and death.
For example, where does one find an English-speaking gynecologist?
The JoongAng Daily looked into this and found a nonprofit English-speaking medical organization called Focus. Their phone number is (02) 798-7529.
We also interviewed Dr. Hae Ree Sung, a gynecologist at Dr. Sung’s Clinic in Hannam-dong, about women’s health issues. She gives her answers below, noting that each woman is unique, and that each should consult her gynecologist with any specific questions.
When should a woman start going to the gynecologist?
Once you begin menstruating or become sexually active, you should see a gynecologist once or twice a year.
Someone as young as 13 with irregular menstruation cycles, extremely heavy or extremely light menstruation, or terrible premenstrual pain should go to a gynecologist. Some doctors have a special check-up program for teens.
Even if you’re not sexually active, you should still get a check-up. One reason is because Koreans generally have a higher rate of cervical cancer than women in other developed countries (20 out of every 100,000 people versus five out of 100,000 in the United States).
What are some misconceptions about women’s health issues?
Teenagers are often afraid that if they go on the pill, they will become infertile. That simply isn’t true.
Some young Korean women also worry that getting a mammogram will put them at a higher risk for breast cancer.
Most doctors don’t recommend mammography for women younger than 35. The reasons are numerous: Breast cancer is rare for young women, young breast tissue is dense, the risk/benefit ratio is low and young breast tissue is radiosensitive. But if a woman’s family has a history of breast cancer, it might be better to get a mammogram regardless of age.
How often should a woman check herself for breast cancer? Are self-administered exams accurate?
You should check yourself for breast cancer once a month after your period has ended. It’s a life-saving habit. Ten percent of breast cancer cases are found by self-exams, 50 percent from a doctor’s physical and 40 percent from X-rays.
Many women complain of their breasts feeling bloated and hard. Why does this happen? Is it because of the weather or hormones?
Lumpy pockets form when breast tissue, mammary glands and ducts overreact to the normal hormones produced during ovulation. It’s called cystic mastitis, and 50 to 60 percent of women experience it. Cystic mastitis sounds like a disease, but it’s a benign condition common to women between the ages of 20 and 50.
Your breasts may feel more tender before menstruation. The condition usually disappears after menopause.
What does a pap smear check for and how often do I need to get one?
A pap smear allows the doctor to obtain and diagnose surface cells from the cervix. A specialist can use the test to check for signs of cancer before it actually develops. Results may take up to a week.
What kind of symptoms are normal before and after the period?
Ninety percent of all menstruating women report having some symptoms that are associated with premenstrual syndrome; however, most do not actually have premenstrual syndrome, or PMS.
PMS can be categorized as emotional, behavioral or physical. Most women, around 60 percent, report both emotional and physical symptoms.
What contraceptives are available in Korea?
Several brands of oral contraceptives are available here. Monophasic birth control pills contain equal amounts of estrogen and progestin. Brands include Myvolar, Minivor, Mercilon, Sescon and Diane 35. Triphasic pills have differing amounts of estrogen and progestin, and are thought to more closely mimic the body’s natural hormone rhythm. Only one brand, Triquilar, is available in Korea.
You can get birth control pills from your doctor or your local pharmacy. You don’t need a prescription in Korea, but you should check with your physician before taking them.
Diaphragms aren’t available here.
Norlevo, a morning-after pill, is available. Just remember that it isn’t 100-percent effective and doesn’t protect you from sexually transmitted diseases.
by Joe Yong-hee
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