Healthy mind, healthy body

Health Focus

The Cape Jewish Chronicle chatted to Dr Lauren Lee, founder of The Health Team, a multidisciplinary medical practice in Mouille Point, about some of the health issues she is seeing among her patients since the Covid pandemic. With August being Women’s Month, the focus of the discussion was on women’s health. Dr Lee offers some valuable insights and useful guidance.

According to Dr Lee, the impact of the Covid pandemic has gone far beyond the direct effects of the virus. “While our daily lives may have somewhat normalised, we are now facing numerous health challenges post-pandemic.”

Two major trends are evident:

Preventative medical check-ups fell by the wayside

Because we couldn’t easily visit hospitals and clinics during the lockdown period, regular tests didn’t happen. “Women should have annual mammograms and regular PAP Smears,” Dr Lee explains. “Sadly these were not prioritised so we are seeing many patients who last had these in 2018/2019. Such important screening tests should pick up breast and cervical cancer early enough to treat them swiftly, so it’s crucial that our community have them done.” 

Both men and women should also have screening colonoscopies for colo-rectal cancer. “The American guidelines suggest that the average-risk patient should discuss a c-scope with their GP from 45 years old.”

The ‘Mental Health Pandemic’

Dr Lee is seeing a significant increase in patients suffering from anxiety and depression. “Often my patients present with physical symptoms, such as headaches, constipation, fatigue and insomnia. However, the underlying cause of these complaints may well be secondary to poor mental wellbeing. 

“Our community has experienced a lot of loss: the unexpected death of loved ones, the loss of businesses and financial stability, even the loss of confidence in the country’s future and our children’s tertiary education options.” She urges everyone to speak to their GPs and reach out for support. “Maintaining good mental health does not always involve antidepressant medication. Our diet, sleep patterns and support systems are really important. Getting regular sunlight and exercise are also crucial to our overall wellbeing.”

Tips from Dr Lauren Lee

  • Women aged between 40-49 years should have an annual mammogram. Breast cancer among this age group may be more aggressive and early detection is essential.
  • Women of over 50 years can have a mammogram every 2nd year, but this decision needs to be personalised depending on each individual’s risk profile.
  • All women over 25 years should have regular PAP Smears. The frequency varies from every 1 to 3 years depending on the patient and the type of testing that is performed.
  • All adults over the age of 45 years should have an initial colonoscopy. This is usually repeated every 10 years, again depending on multiple factors.
  • A simple faecal test (FOBT) can also be performed if funds are limited.
  • Annual blood tests to assess cholesterol, glucose, Vitamin B12 and iron levels form an important part of medical screening.

Dr Lauren Lee is a family practitioner working in private practice in Mouille Point, Cape Town. With over 17 years of experience as a General Practitioner, she enjoys the diverse challenges that present themselves when working within the family framework. She has an holistic approach to healthcare and partners with her patients to improve their physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Dr Lee graduated with distinction from The University of Cape Town in 2001 and has a special interest in child health, as well as child and adult mental health. 

In addition to her daily work in her medical practice, called The Health Team, Dr Lee made a crucial contribution to the provision of safety equipment during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the early days of the pandemic, she co-founded Masks for Medics, an NGO that raised funds to purchase medical grade PPE for frontline Healthcare workers.

• Published in the August 2023 issue – Click here to start reading.

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