It's come a long way but has a ways to go

Talks: Three advocates for women's health will talk about changes that are taking place in a lecture series.

April 10, 1999|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,SUN STAFF

Any woman alive today who has experienced life-extending medical treatment, from a mastectomy to bypass surgery, can attest to major milestones in women's health. Those same women probably can point to any number of areas that sorely need improvement, from managed care, reproduction issues and gender bias in the medical care system, to sexually transmitted diseases, violence against women and societal obsession with an "ideal" body size.

So it makes sense that three respected women's health advocates will speak about these and other crises confronting females of all ages in a lecture series at Maryland Science Center, where the current exhibition, "The Changing Face of Women's Health," recognizes dramatic medical advances of the past 50 years.

Health reporter, author and practicing physician Judith Reichman will speak about issues covered in her latest book, "I'm Not in the Mood: What Every Woman Should Know About Improving Her Libido," at 7: 30 p.m. Monday.

Judy Norsigian, health activist and member of the Boston Women's Health Collective, which in 1970 produced the revolutionary "Our Bodies, Ourselves," will address issues ranging from body image to managed care for women, April 27.

Breast cancer specialist and author Dr. Susan Love will speak about "Telling the Truth about Cancer," May 27.

As the series proceeds, expect well-informed differences of opinion on certain controversial topics.

Reichman, known to those who watch the "Today" show, is a forthright advocate of hormone treatment, and uses her media pulpit to speak bluntly about the need to recognize women's sexuality as a bona fide health concern.

Her talk, "Sex, Lies and Menopause," will cover changes that occur during perimenopause and menopause, Reichman says by phone from her Los Angeles office.

The discussion inevitably steers to a woman's right to enjoy sex as long as she cares to. "Women are told as they get older that we don't need to have a sexuality," Reichman says. "It's not a part of age. It's a purview of the young and that as we go through menopause, we can expect to lose everything, our sexual desire and our sexual response."

In her book, Reichman champions the use of testosterone in treating a woman's loss of libido. Testosterone is as responsible for women's sexual response as men's, she says. "It has a stronger effect on sexuality than anything else, except, perhaps religious training," she quips.

The testosterone replacement debate is "perhaps more controversial" than her advocacy of estrogen therapy, which is given to woman to combat heart attacks, osteoporosis and Alzheimer's disease, but has been linked to breast cancer.

"The quality of sexual expression [is] something some doctors would maintain is not [necessary] ... that we don't have a clear-cut medical need for it," says Reichman, whose first book was "I'm Too Young to Get Old: Health Care for Women After 40."

Norsigian remains a vocal and widely versed women's health activist nearly 30 years after "Our Bodies, Ourselves," a frank look at sexuality, birth control, abortion and other issues was published. The book is updated regularly, appears in 19 languages (including Braille) and has sold more than 4 million copies.

Norsigian will address the claims made for Tamoxifen in preventing breast cancer, sexually transmitted-disease prevention, and the consciousness-raising required to end the "horrible things" women do to their bodies.

During her discussion of body image, Norsigian will screen part of "Redefining Liberation," a video about the influence of tobacco, alcohol and fashion industry advertising.

Love, author of numerous books on breast cancer and hormone treatment including "Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book," will talk about "Telling the Truth About Cancer." Love, who left clinical practice to devote more time to breast cancer research, challenges the widely held notion that estrogen replacement prevents osteoporosis and heart attacks.

Lately, Love has spoken out about menopause -- even as she experiences it -- and metes out advice on easing its symptoms: exercise, dress in layers, anticipate hot flashes and eat more soy protein.

Women's health

What: Lecture series

Where: Maryland Science Center, 601 Light St. Who: Dr. Judith Reichman, 7: 30 p.m. Monday Judy Norsigian, 6: 30 p.m. April 27

Dr.Susan Love, 2 p.m. May 22

Tickets: $15, $12 for members; includes admission to the exhibit "The Changing Face of Women's Health," which runs through Aug. 31

Call: 410-545-2988 Pub Date: 4/10/99

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