When her childhood friend got an anatomy book, Carol Caico pored over it—when she wasn’t reading Cherry Ames, Student Nurse. At age 12, when she had her appendix removed, she was scared but intrigued by the hospital’s inner workings. But only after she was a married mother of two did she become a nurse.
The Long Island, N.Y., native found she loved working with women in obstetrics and gynecology. But the nurse practitioner (NP), who also has a master’s in counseling and a docorate in health and human services, also takes a 360-degree approach to patient care. “NPs usually try to spend more time with patients to diagnose and treat complaints,” she says.
We asked Caico for her advice on dealing with doctors, troubleshooting symptoms, and coping with common women’s health complaints.
The best gynecologist is one you can talk to—about anything. “Women have so many issues from adolescence through post-menopause,” she says. “You need a good provider—one who will ask questions about subjects you might not want to bring up.”
The secret to getting the most out of your appointment: Bring a list. This will make it easier to bring up sensitive topics, especially when your doc is crunched for time. Feel free to read it to your doctor.
Pain below the belt should always be checked out. “There are so many possible causes: a bacterial infection, ovarian cysts, or just ovulation,” Caico says. “But you need a diagnosis.”
Self-treating could get you in trouble. Many women mistakenly think they have yeast infections when it’s actually bacterial vaginosis, a condition with similar symptoms that requires different treatment. It’s best to check in with your doctor to get a proper assessment.
You probably don’t have to worry about fibroids. The uterine growths, which are thickened muscle tissue, aren’t cancerous, and often shrink after menopause due to the drop in estrogen. But they can be painful and cause heavy bleeding, so women who are truly suffering should discuss their options with their ob-gyn.
Safety is important for single women of any age. “There are too many preventable sexually transmitted infections with life-altering conse- quences that could be avoided,” she says. A doctor who doesn’t listen deserves to be dumped. Ditto if he or she minimizes any symptom you report as “just menopause.” “Ask someone for a referral to an ob-gyn who will give you individual attention,” Caico says.