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First for Women Clips

November 11, 2002

Protect Your Breasts (Without the Stress!)

By Nancy Monson

An all-too-common health concern: false-positive and false-negative mammogram results. But new research has found a fix. In a first-of-its-kind study, Stephen Taplin, M.D., head of the breast cancer screening program at Group Health Cooperative in Seattle, found that poor breast positioning more than doubles the odds of cancer being missed.

Simple actions on your part can improve the mammogram's accuracy—and your comfort. Here's what to do.

For more accurate results...

  • Schedule your test for the first two weeks of your menstrual cycle. Thanks to fluctuations in reproductive hormones, breast tissue is less dense at the beginning of the cycle, so it's easier to see irregularities in the X ray.
  • Go with the flow when being positioned. Proper placement helps ensure the entire breast gets X rayed and that there's a good outline of the nipple and the muscle behind the breast on the film, which is key to a clear reading, Dr. Taplin says.
  • For a more comfortable screening...






    February 28, 2000

    Avoid Computer Eyestrain

    It's more than just your vision that's at stake

    By Nancy Monson

    One in 20 Americans suffer from computer vision syndrome—and the problem is on the rise, reports Teresa Madden, OD. Symptoms include dry, burning eyes, blurred vision, pain, blinking, squinting and headaches. Even back and neck pain can result from eyestrain, which is caused by logging in long hours at a video display terminal under less-than-ideal conditions.

    To prevent or treat computer eyestrain, follow this advice:

    1. Take frequent breaks. Continuously looking at your computer screen stresses eye muscles. "To periodically relax them," says Dr. Madden, "follow the 'rule of 20.'" Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break, and look 20 feet away from your computer. To remember your break, get a cooking timer and place it on your desk.

    2. Make an effort to blink more. A Japanese study showed that we normally blink 18 times per minute. For an unknown reason, however, while working on the computer most people blink only seven times per minute, which can lead to eye dryness.

    3. Reduce glare. Reflection from lights and windows reduces the contrast between on-screen type and the background, and makes your eyes work harder. So relocate lamps, dim overhead lights and put blinds on the windows.

    4. Look down when working. Set up your computer so it is 10"-20" below eye level. "Your eyes function better during close-up work if you're looking down," explains Dr. Madden.

    5. Back away from your computer. If you're too close to your computer screen, your eyes have to work harder to focus, and that tires the muscles. So make sure you sit between 20" and 26" away.

    6. Get an eye exam annually—or any time you experience vision problems. Optometrists can prescribe special magnifying glasses, and even contact lenses, that can help you see better while working on the computer.






    August 9, 1993

    Social Obligations

    Not every invitation is greeted with great expectations. Whenand howcan you bow out?

    By Nancy Monson

    "If I go to one more bridal party, I'll go broke," sighs Connie, a bridesmaid four times over in a single year. "When you add up the cost of the dresses, shoes and all the parties and presents, each wedding costs about $500! By my fourth invitation, I couldn't afford to say yes. But I did. I felt obligated."

    Maybe your dreaded invite isn't to a wedding, but a baby shower, engagement party, graduation or get-together. You're expected to attend but you don't want to. You're short on cash. You don't know the other guests. Or you just crave a Saturday to yourself. For days you vacillate and put off RSVPing. What's the right thing to do?

    "Baby and bridal showers, weddings, engagement and anniversary parties, christenings—these are important rites of passage for women," explains Judith Sills, author of Excess Baggage: Getting Out of Your Own Way (Viking). "We feel obligated to attend them because that's our job! Traditionally, women's roles have been to create and maintain the social support network."

    As keepers of the social rites, Sills feels women should attend most social functions. "We've gone too far in the direction of 'me, me, me' and social connections are breaking down," she laments. "Saying yes to an invitation is a demonstration of your support and love." Also, if you do decide to attend, you just may end up having fun.

    There are times, however, when it's okay to miss social functions. Just say no if:

    When you do turn down an invitation, be polite and straightforward. "Say, 'I'd love to go, but I'm not able to,'" advises Sills. If appropriate, send a small gift to the hostess or new mom or bride. Finally, be prepared for the consequences of your actions. If you don't have the time to go to Sue's shower, she may not find the time to come to yours.


    Copyright Nancy Monson
    All rights reserved.