Let’s Make Women’s Health a Priority Everyday.
Don’t put the pink away quite yet. While every October is commemorated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the truth is women’s health should be a priority every day of the year.
What is women’s health?
According to MedlinePlus, women’s health refers to a branch of medicine focusing on medical issues affecting the physical and emotional well-being of women. Of course, women face many unique concerns — such as pregnancy and menopause — though women’s health also includes education and treatment of mental health issues like anxiety and domestic violence. Because women’s health is such a broad subject, it can involve many medical specialties from OB/GYNs and surgeons to radiologists and psychologists.
What conditions are associated with women’s health?
Common conditions associated with women’s health can include the following:
- Birth control, pregnancy, and sexual health
- Breast, cervical, and ovarian cancer
- Heart disease
- Menopause and hormone therapy
- Mental and emotional health
Why should women routinely see a women’s health specialist?
“Early intervention is key to dealing with any acute or chronic condition. Many people seek medical care when ill, healthcare has been shifting for many years and is focusing on wellness care,” said Culbertson Director of Clinical Operations Kristi Hinegardner. “Being as healthy as possible begins with establishing care with a trusted provider. Primary care or gynecology identify and treat specific conditions related to women and the changes their bodies go through.”
What exams should women schedule — and when?
Most regular exams should begin around age 40. However, personal and family history can alter certain risk factors, and consequently, timing of each exam.
“For most women, pap smears and pelvic exams are done yearly with a physical with addition of a mammogram after 40,” Hinegardner said. “Colonoscopies are also considered a normal screening after 40 for most. Lab work is generally part of the yearly physical. Most labs examine general health and can detect warning signs of chronic illness such as some cancers, thyroid dysfunction, high cholesterol, diabetes, kidney function and bleeding disorders. These lab exams and screening tests help in directing the provider evaluate any abnormalities further.”
Regular exams and tests women should schedule include the following:
Blood tests and urinalysis — Women ages 18-39 should undergo blood tests and urinalysis every three years, while women ages 40-49 should be tested every two years. Women ages 50 and older should be tested every year.
- Cervical cancer screening — Starting at age 21, a pap test should be conducted by an OB/GYN every three years; additionally, HPV tests should be done every five years beginning at age 30. Beginning at age 65, women who have received three negative tests in the previous 10 years may stop testing.
- Cholesterol test — Patients with known risks for coronary heart disease should start cholesterol tests at age 20. Otherwise, women should undergo cholesterol tests every five years beginning at age 45.
- Colonoscopy — Women should undergo a colorectal cancer screening every 10 years beginning at age 50.
- Eye exam — Women ages 18-39 should have their sight checked if they have visual problems or changes. Women ages 40-49 should schedule an eye exam every two to four years. Starting at age 55, exams should be scheduled every one to three years, while women ages 65 and older should schedule an exam every one to two years.
- Hearing exams — Women should begin hearing tests at age 18, then once every 10 years, while women ages 50 and older should discuss with healthcare providers.
- Mammograms — Women ages 40-49 should schedule annual breast cancer screenings every one to two years. Women ages 18-39 should conduct monthly self-exams, though those at high risk of breast cancer should consult with healthcare providers.
- Mental health — Don’t neglect mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. If you experience symptoms of mental illness, consult with your healthcare provider.
- Oral and dental exams — All women should schedule dental exams once or twice a year.