Leading in Women’s Health

Friday, March 08, 2019

Women face health challenges throughout their lives that are unique to them. At Watson Clinic, our specialists have long made strides to advance the cause of women’s health.

Gynecologic oncologist Dr. Richard Cardosi was the first surgeon in Polk County to perform a robotic-assisted hysterectomy using a single-site incision.

Since it opened in 2006, our Women’s Center has set the standard for early detection and breast cancer treatment, offering powerful 3D mammography capabilities and a team of expert breast-specific radiologists, breast surgeons and highly skilled plastic and reconstructive surgeons who have assisted countless women in restoring their confidence following a mastectomy.

In 2009, board-certified cardiologist Dr. John Canto received international recognition for his influential research study on women, heart attack risks and mortality rates.

Efforts like these are complimented by a devotion to community service and advocacy, as evidenced by our sponsorships and participation in events like the American Cancer Society’s Making Stride against Breast Cancer and Relay for Life events, our monthly pregnancy and childbirth education classes and much more.

In keeping with our quest to share crucial information on women’s health matters, here are a few topics that we believe deserve more attention:


Heart Disease

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. For generations, the medical community has too often dismissed women’s heart attack symptoms by blaming them on the flu, stress or simply feeling under the weather.

“Recently, much has been done to clarify the misunderstandings regarding women and heart attack symptoms,” says John G. Canto, MD, MSPH, FACC, a board-certified cardiologist at Watson Clinic Main in Lakeland.

While it’s true that the most common red flag of a heart attack in both men and women is chest pain or discomfort that lasts for more than a few minutes—or goes away and comes back—women are more likely to experience other symptoms. These include:

• Shortness of breath.

• Pain in the jaw or upper or lower back.

• Nausea and vomiting.

• Cold sweat.

• Dizziness or light-headedness.

Some of these symptoms may occur before an actual heart attack. For instance, women may struggle to breathe for several weeks before a heart attack happens.

If there’s any chance you’re having a heart attack, call 911 right away. Don’t try to drive yourself to a hospital—or have someone else drive you. Reacting quickly to signs of a heart attack could save your life.


Approximately 15 million women in the United States have diabetes. That’s 1 in every 9 adult females.

A common and dangerous disease brought on by high levels of blood sugar – or glucose – in the body, diabetes can hit women especially hard. It results in a higher risk for heart disease, blindness and depression compared to men.

You’ve likely heard of Type 1 and the more common Type 2 diabetes. Both result from a lack of insulin production in the body. There’s another type of diabetes that’s exclusive to women: gestational diabetes. “This condition occurs only during pregnancy, and can have negative health impacts on both the mother and baby if left unmanaged,” says Tarek Garas, MD, a board-certified OB-GYN and Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery specialist at Watson Clinic Bartow Obstetrics & Gynecology and the Watson Clinic Bella Vista Building. “The condition typically ceases after birth, but it can raise the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.”

Gestational diabetes is normally managed through a healthy diet and increased physical activity. If these steps are not sufficient in lowering blood glucose levels, then insulin might be required.


Lung Cancer

The American Cancer Society estimates that over 112,000 women will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year. While smoking is the major culprit behind the disease, women who have never smoked are still twice as likely to get the disease than men who have never smoked.

The sooner lung cancer is diagnosed, the better the chances for survival. Doctors now have a screening test that can catch lung cancer early. It's called low-dose computed tomography (LDCT).

“Anyone at high risk for lung cancer should get annual LDCT lung cancer screening,” asserts Dr. Shalini Mulaparthi, a board-certified oncologist-hematologist at the Watson Clinic Cancer & Research Center.

You are at high risk if all three of these things are true for you:

1. You have a pack-year smoking history of 30 years or more. The number of packs of cigarettes you smoked per day multiplied by the number of years you smoked equals your pack years. For example: 1.5 packs a day multiplied by 20 years equals 30 pack years.

2. You smoke now, or you quit within the last 15 years.

3. You're between 55 and 80 years old.

“The biggest benefit of LDCT is that it can find lung cancer in its beginning stages, which helps lower the risk of dying from the disease,” says Dr. Mulaparthi.

Early diagnosis also means that doctors can often use minimally invasive surgery to remove the cancer and preserve more lung tissue.

If you think you're at high risk for lung cancer, ask your doctor about getting screened with LDCT.


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