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Book review: Women’s Health in Primary Care

I was a contributor to several editions of the textbook Women’s Health published by Oxford University Press and edited by Dr Deborah Waller and Dr Ann McPherson, which is now rather out of date having not been updated since 2003. Since the sad death of Ann McPherson there seems no heart to update this book.

So, I was very interested to see that Cambridge University Press have now brought out a Women’s Health in Primary Care textbook, edited by Dr Anne Connolly and Dr Amanda Britton.

The book covers virtually identical topics to the earlier Oxford textbook – the menstrual cycle, endometriosis, infertility, miscarriage, polycystic ovarian syndrome, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, osteoporosis and cystitis – and is 15 years more up to date.

The surprising thing about Women’s Health in Primary Care is how short the chapters are: all are around 10 pages including references, diagrams and pictures, in an easy-to-read, very open format, so it has a welcoming, accessible feel about it. You can easily read a chapter over a cup of coffee. This makes a striking contrast to the older Women’s Health book, with its dense, information-packed, earnestly argued, dark blue-stocking script and chapters up to 50 pages long.

Consequently, the new, slim, light, 250-page book is much easier to pick up off the shelf for reference than the older, 1-kg Oxford textbook. Moreover, Women’s Health in Primary Care takes a much more practical ‘how do you approach this consultation’ perspective, with case scenarios and key point boxes, rather than the ‘this is everything a thinking GP should know about this topic’ position.

The chapter Dr Pam Brown has written on osteoporosis is really beautiful. She has been extraordinarily unlucky in that new National Osteoporosis Guidelines Group guidance and new NICE guidelines on bisphosphonates came out just after this book was printed, and that strontium ranelate has just been withdrawn from the world market. However, the strength of her chapter is that it’s an unshakable framework in which to think about osteoporosis and the basics needed to know; the fact that exactly where the FRAX risk percentage for treatment should be seems at the present to be as volatile as the Sterling exchange rate doesn’t matter, as that is easily available online.

This is a book that needs to be in every surgery, for that quiet moment, if you ever get one, to dip into for 5-10 mins to refresh and update your ideas about women’s health.

Dr Sally Hope is a former GP and a women’s health specialist

Women’s Health in Primary Care, edited by Anne Connolly and Amanda Britton, is published by Cambridge University Press