GP implores women to visit their doctor this Women's Health Week

Get checked: Dr. Dina Elhalawani said GPs are available face-to-face, not just via telehealth. Picture: Morgan Hancock
Get checked: Dr. Dina Elhalawani said GPs are available face-to-face, not just via telehealth. Picture: Morgan Hancock

THIS week is Women's Health Week (Sept 7-11) and one GP is imploring women to get up to speed with basic checkups.

Doctor Dina Elhalawani, of Warrnambool on Victoria's south western coast, has set up a Facebook page and is doing one post a day this week to remind women what aspects of their physical and mental health they should be keeping tabs on.

She's been concerned about the drop in presentations to South West Medical Centre where her practice is based.

"There's been about a 24 to 26 per cent decrease in the number of women presenting to face-to-face consultations compared to last year," she said.

"My impression is due to COVID-19 most women are too stressed or too scared to leave the house and visit the doctor.

"My message is it's still safe to come to your GP there are just certain precautions in place, and there is of course telehealth too if needed, but that's not the only way to contact your GP."

Dr Elhalawani said the drop in presentations meant crucial preventative health checks were being put off, endangering women's health.

"For example I would normally do up to six pap smears a day, now I would be lucky to do one a week," she said.

"Things like mammograms I hear many patients saying they will put it off until COVID things get better, I don't want to sound pessimistic but things might not get better for a long time.

"I don't think it's a reason to be putting off our medical needs, whether it's a mammogram, pap smear, blood test, bowel screening or post-natal check, we're looking at misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis if these are being put off.

"Delayed or misdiagnosis can have a major effect in terms of the treatment available. For example we know with breast cancer the delay makes all the difference in the prognosis a patient can have.

"Breast cancer is not going to wait because of COVID."

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She's using her social media page to this week talk about women's health and things women need to check up on.

"For younger people we want to make sure they're keeping an eye on their sexual health. The amount of people presenting with unplanned pregnancies has been higher during this period, mainly because people are not looking towards their contraceptive needs," she said.

"As we get older I think one of the most common myths is that women think they're not at high risk of heart conditions, but that is totally untrue, especially around menopause age women are at a reasonable risk of heart conditions.

"Things to get checked are your heart health, including cholesterol, weight and blood pressure."

Dr Dina Elhalawani is a single mum of Hannah, 11, and a front line health worker juggling work and home schooling during the second lockdown. Picture: Morgan Hancock

Dr Dina Elhalawani is a single mum of Hannah, 11, and a front line health worker juggling work and home schooling during the second lockdown. Picture: Morgan Hancock

Daily advice, fact sheets, podcasts and infographs are also being posted on the official Women's Health Week website.

Dr Elhalawani said people should also be keeping a close eye on their mental health at this stressful time.

She has been working from home part of the time, and from the clinic while homeschooling her daughter.

"I encourage all women, whether it's mums homeschooling or working from home, yell out to your GP and have a chat," she said.

"I know we're all going through this but that doesn't mean you should go through this alone, we are here to help."

This story Ladies, here's what you need to check this Women's Health Week first appeared on The Standard.