Dr Jia Ni Zhu and her tips for women who want to live well.
Dr Jia Ni Zhu, Jarnie to her friends and patients, loves her job as a GP. She feels that General Practice is so much more than scripts and issues that flare up. For her, it is about holistic care. While she has a wide range of experience (read about her background here), one of her interests is women’s health. Dr Jarnie shares her tips on holistic care, specifically for women who want to live well.
Why its important to ask: are you okay?
My patients are like my extended family and I love to be a part of their lives. Helping them be the best that they can be! I remember one Friday afternoon, I was about to go home at the end of the day when a last minute walk-in patient asked to be seen for a medical certificate for a presumed migraine. I obliged and prepared for a relatively simple consult. However, after a bit of a chat, the floodgates seemed to open. My patient started revealing issues of significant workplace bullying and domestic abuse. It soon became apparent that for many years, she had been having significant depressive symptoms and suicidal ideations. Previously, she was too scared and ashamed to talk to anyone about her issues. She was used to being the bedrock for other people and she felt that she couldn’t easily allow herself to reveal her vulnerabilities. However, about 45 minutes later, she emerged from my consulting room that day with a plan and a purpose – and I like to think with her head held just a little higher.
I started to see her regularly from that day onwards. Now, 3 years later, this very patient has successfully left her demoralising job and her abusive partner. Finally having the time and energy to focus on her skills and strengths, she is now the proud owner of her own business. Her creations have even been featured internationally and in prominent magazines. I am so thrilled to have been a part of her fulfilling journey!
As you may have gathered from this story, I believe ardently in holistic care. I love my job because I can meet people from all walks of life and as a GP, I can help them in so many different ways. My patients bring me so much joy and seeing them get better and thrive is the most rewarding part of the job for me!
Don’t check out, check up.
One area of interest for me is women’s health. I want to share what’s involved in a women’s health check and why you might want to schedule one.
For us women, there are always so much on our minds. From being a supportive friend, being a loving partner and mother, and kicking goals at work, it’s no wonder that we find it hard to stay healthy. But if we can carve out a small amount of time each week to live well, then I’ve found that we can be better. We can then more easily be there for our workmates, friends, family and most importantly, for ourselves.
No matter how busy or hectic your life may be, you should try and book in a check-up at least once a year. In this appointment, you’ll talk to your GP about your medical history, your family’s history of disease and your lifestyle choices. These choices include sleep patterns, diet, exercise habits and whether or not you smoke or drink alcohol.
This discussion will help your GP identify any risk factors which may increase your risk of developing poor health outcomes like type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, strokes or mental health issues like depression. You may already know this by now, but the earlier a GP can pick up on these issues, the better placed we are to guide the changes you want to make in your life. These changes can dramatically reduce your risk of chronic issues and diseases. A typical women’s health check will also include a Cervical Screening Test and a breast examination, as well as any relevant investigations like blood tests to check your cholesterol and sugar levels. So go ahead and book your next check-up today!
Two things to consider.
I wanted to dive a little deeper on two areas: Cervical cancer screening and self-examinations for early breast cancer detection.
If you are sexually active, I would highly encourage you to talk to a GP about a Cervical Screening Test (CST). A CST is generally performed once every 5 years for sexually active women to look for changes that could lead to cervical cancer. The CST has now replaced pap smears which used to be done every 2 years. The latest medical and scientific evidence shows that having a CST every five years is just as safe, and is more effective than having a Pap test every two years. For you, if you have ever had a Pap test before, the way the CST is done will look and feel the same. It is recommended that you have CSTs done every five years between the ages of 25-74.
During your check up, your GP will also talk to you about human papillomavirus or HPV. Genital HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection. It usually has no symptoms and goes away by itself, but can sometimes have serious consequences like cervical cancer. The latest HPV vaccine, called Gardasil 9, has been developed to protect you against nine HPV subtypes. These 9 types cause around 90% of cervical cancers in women (and the majority of other HPV-related cancers in women), 95% of all HPV-related cancers in men and 90% of genital warts. Want to know more? You can visit www.hpvvaccine.org.auand talk to your GP. Regular 5 yearly Cervical Screening tests combined with the HPV vaccine means that cervical cancer is now one of the most preventable diseases we have!
The second area that I want to talk about is breast cancer. All breasts are different. We all have different shapes and sizes but what is important is that you need to be familiar with yours. Only then can you pick up on when things change. Try to get used to looking at and feeling your breasts regularly. Whether it’s during bath time or when you shower or during your daily beauty routine. Remember to feel and check all parts of your breast, your armpits and up to your collarbone. Look out for anything out of the ordinary (lumps, swelling, redness, altered areas of skin or if you experience pain in any area of your breast). Want to know more? You can visit www.bcna.org.auand talk to your GP.
Time for a chat?
I hope this was useful reading. Remember, prevention is better than cure. So keep an eye out for any changes and don’t hesitate to talk to your GP.
Finally, take the time to enjoy the simple things in life. The way that I relax but still get out and about is a long walk. My husband and I have a beautiful golden retriever named Olli and a delightful baby boy named Oscar and they certainly help to get us out of the house and live life to the fullest!
Dr Jarnie Zhu
Dr Jia Ni Zhu, 'Jarnie' to her patients and friends, has joined our team at St Kilda Road. She is an experienced doctor with a wide range of skills. Originally from New Zealand, Jarnie completed her studies in Melbourne and Cambridge (in the UK). She has worked in hospitals and as a GP. Most recently, Jarnie was a GP at a medical centre in Elwood.