It is easy to come up with excuses to not see a doctor. Work, school, or family obligations keep women incredibly busy. Besides, if you do not feel sick, there is no point in going to the doctor, right? In reality, women have unique health needs, and it is incredibly important for women to see a doctor once a year for what is known as a well-woman exam.
One of the main goals of an annual well-woman exam is for a doctor to assess your current state of health and help you take preventative measures against disease.
A well visit will include a pelvic exam, physical exam, and a conversation with your doctor. During a pelvic exam, your doctor will check your pelvic organs, looking and feeling for any abnormalities. The earlier abnormalities are detected, the easier they are to treat.
Preventative care may include immunizations, including the HPV vaccine, flu shots, or the shingles vaccine. Your doctor will make the appropriate recommendations based on your age and medical history.
Your doctor may recommend bloodwork to check things like cholesterol and thyroid functioning. Often, these tests come back normal, and establishing a baseline of what is normal for your body will help identify if there is a problem in the future.
Mammograms are part of regular preventative care for women starting around age 40. A mammogram is a type of X-ray for breast tissue to check for signs of breast cancer, and is usually taken every one to two years. Women have a better chance of surviving breast cancer when it is detected early.
In addition to these and numerous other health benefits, an annual visit with your doctor means they will get to know you and your body, and may notice if anything has changed from the year prior.
Some women want to have a large family, while others do not plan on having children. Part of a well-woman exam involves discussing your reproductive plans with your doctor. Depending on your plans, your doctor may recommend birth control options, or discuss how you can prepare for pregnancy.
Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes or supplements when planning for pregnancy, and if needed, can make recommendations regarding fertility specialists.
An annual visit allows your doctor to get to know you and understand your plans for the future, including what to expect when going through menopause later on.
One of the main objectives of a well-woman exam is screening for certain diseases. Some screenings , like diagnostic tests, can take place during your exam, but others may require you to see a specialist.
There are many different diseases you could be tested for, but your doctor will make recommendations based on your age and health history.
Your well exam will always include a breast exam, and your healthcare provider will discuss performing self-exams at home. While not exclusively a woman’s disease, breast cancer affects millions of women every year.
Depending on your sexual history and sexual activity, your doctor may recommend screening for HPV (human papillomavirus, which can cause cervical cancer) or STDs, including HIV.
Ideally, you should receive your first well-woman visit in your teens, or whenever you plan on becoming sexually active. As a teenager, you may receive an HPV vaccine, and you can discuss any concerns you may have with your doctor. When you turn 21, expect to have your first Pap smear, which is a screening test for cervical cancer.
Many women will also have blood tests to check cholesterol levels and have their blood pressure checked. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in women in the U.S., so it is important to have an annual exam.
Your age and medical history will help your doctor decide if diabetes or osteoporosis screenings are appropriate for you.
An annual well-woman exam will include a conversation with your physician regarding your medical history. You may be asked to fill out a questionnaire with information about your personal and family history. You will also be asked about your prescription or over-the-counter medications.
Recording your medical history is critical to the accuracy and effectiveness your healthcare. Some diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, can be genetic. However, both are treatable, especially if detected early. Knowing that either of these diseases run in your family ensures that your doctor can help you discuss treatment options, and develop a plan early on. If you have a family history of heart disease, for example, your doctor may discuss plans to help you stop smoking, or exercise regimens that keep your heart active and healthy. Understanding your medical history also allows your physician to recommend the right diagnostic tests and preventative care.
Your medical history does more than just help you and your doctor—it can also help your children and grandchildren. Your medical history may indicate that others in your family may be at risk for certain diseases. Keeping track of your medical history with a regular healthcare provider can prove invaluable to you and your family.
During your conversation and visit with your physician, your doctor may give you lifestyle advice in the form of counseling. An annual visit does not just check your physical health, but also your mental health, emotional well-being, and safety. You may be asked if there have been any major, recent changes in your life, such as a death in the family, divorce, or job loss.
Doctors have your best interests in mind, and may recommend dietary changes or exercise in order to stay healthy and prevent disease. Even if you already have a healthy lifestyle, an annual well-woman exam will give you a steady relationship with your doctor, who in turn may notice changes in your mood and overall health.
Depression is common in women, and your doctor may recommend further counseling with a specialist. If you feel that you are in an unsafe situation, a doctor may be able to refer you to other services that can help.
Have questions or concerns? Call Dr. Saska Sookra. Lifestream Family Medicine wants to be your primary care facility. Contact us to schedule an appointment by clicking this link or calling (941) 755-0433