Women’s Health Issues Informs Treatment Choices
By Carolyn M.
September 6, 2011
we want choices that reflect who we are and
what’s right for our situation. Getting the
right health care is no different.
information that showed which treatments work
best for certain groups of patients, especially
women, was hard to find.
health research is a growing field. The
a long-term study launched by the late National
Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Bernadine
Healy, MD, has provided important information on
preventing and treating heart disease, breast
and colorectal cancers, and osteoporosis in
women aged 50 to 79.
The WHI and the
Office of Research on Women’s Health, led
for two decades by Vivian Pinn, MD, helped to
ensure that women are fairly represented in NIH-sponsored
studies. Before the WHI began, very few studies
focusing solely on women had been conducted.
Today, far more
research is helping to identify which groups of
patients will benefit from which kind of
treatment. My Agency, the Agency for Healthcare
Research and Quality (AHRQ), sponsors
patient-centered outcomes research that asks
just that question. The goal of this research is
to help you make
better, more informed treatment choices.
consumer guides developed from this research
focus on conditions that affect women. Written
in plain language, these guides can help you
understand the benefits and potential risks of
treatments for different conditions.
One such guide helps women talk to their doctor
or nurse about
medicines to reduce their risk of breast cancer.
Two medicines can lower the risk for women who
are at high risk but have not had breast cancer
However, both of
these drugs have side effects, some of them
serious. If you are at high risk for breast
cancer or if you’re unsure, talk to your doctor
or nurse. They can help you decide whether a
medicine to reduce the risk of breast cancer is
a good choice.
included in this guide include:
- Is my risk
of breast cancer higher or lower than other
women my age?
- What if I
don’t want to start medicine at the age I am
now? Can I start later?
- Is my risk
for blood clots higher than usual?
- Can I do
anything else to lower my risk for breast
helpful guide examines how to
manage pain from a broken hip. Both men and
women are at risk, but women are twice as likely
as men to suffer a broken hip by age 80. The
guide describes why it is important to manage
pain, outlines medicines that may help you, and
provides risks and benefits on other ways to
To help you make
a decision on how to manage pain, the guide
suggests key questions to ask, such as:
options do you think are best to manage my
- How quickly
can I expect relief from my pain?
- How long do
you think I will need to manage my pain?
- Are you
concerned about the side effects from any of
guides from AHRQ that address women’s health
issues cover breast biopsy, osteoporosis
treatments, gestational diabetes, and induced
labor. They provide helpful background on health
conditions. Some even include basic price
information on medicines. Select for a
complete list of patient and consumer guides.
consumer guide to help women over age 50
learn which screening tests, medicines and daily
steps to follow to stay healthy is also
We have made
remarkable progress in understanding how
treatments affect different groups of patients.
Make sure to use that information when you talk
to your health care team about the right
treatment for you.
I’m Dr. Carolyn
Clancy, and that’s my opinion on how to navigate
the health care system.
for Healthcare Research and Quality
Explore Your Treatment Options
From a Broken Hip: A Guide for Adults and their
Reducing the Risk of Breast Cancer with
Medicine: A Guide for Women
Effective Health Care: Guides for Patients
Women: Stay Healthy at 50+
Research on Women’s Health
Health Initiative: Participant Web site
Current as of September 2011
Research on Women’s Health Issues Informs
Treatment Choices. Navigating the Health
Care System: Advice Columns from Dr. Carolyn
Clancy, September 6, 2011. Agency for Healthcare
Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/consumer/cc/cc090611.htm