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Regular screenings are essential for maintaining your overall health. Some can help identify concerns early, and others give you an opportunity to work with your doctor on a customized care plan to help you stay well and feel whole.
Though some services may not be offered where you live temporarily due to coronavirus (COVID-19), it’s wise to identify what health needs you can address now or plan for in the near future. Preventive care may not feel important right now in light of overwhelming responsibilities or concerns, but taking care of yourself — and protecting your long-term health — should never be an afterthought.
AdventHealth for Women’s Health Navigator Doreen Forsythe, BSN, RN is here to help explain the health screenings women should never skip. Even if you can’t schedule a screening right now, consider putting a reminder on your calendar to follow up later.
The Well-Woman Examination
“The well-woman examination is a yearly checkup performed by either your primary care physician or by your OB/GYN,” says Doreen. “This annual screening is a great time to catch up with your care provider to review your medical and family history and share with them any changes you may have had with your body over the last year.”
During the well-woman exam, your provider may perform a clinical breast exam, a pelvic examination and a Pap smear. Additional testing may be suggested. If you’ve had a hysterectomy, it's still recommended that you have a pelvic exam every three to 5 years, even if you’ve never had an abnormal result.
A mammogram is a screening used to look for signs of breast cancer, like tumors. Mammogram technology has come a long way in recent years and is now available in 3D. 3D mammograms and other imaging techniques like ultrasound and MRI are generally only required if your care provider needs to further investigate a tumor, cysts or dense breast tissue.
“After you turn 40 you should start getting a screening mammogram once a year,” says Doreen. “But it’s also important to do self-exams regularly at any age after puberty.”
Colorectal screening is used to determine the presence of any cancerous or precancerous cells in your lower digestive tract. It generally involves a colonoscopy of one type or another and the use of sedatives to make you comfortable during the process. Colorectal screening should begin at age 45.
“The screening usually takes less than an hour and is not anywhere near as uncomfortable as you might think,” says Doreen. “Your doctor will provide some level of anesthesia, whether conscious sedation, or Monitored Anesthesia Care which has a rapid onset and a quick recovery time."
Blood Pressure: Know Your Numbers
“Knowing your numbers is a powerful tool for maintaining good heart health because it allows you to know what changes you need to make or what to keep doing right,” explains Doreen.
It’s recommended that you start checking your blood pressure regularly starting at age 18. Tracking your lipid panel is also important — this includes your total cholesterol, HDL, LDL and lipids.
"If your blood pressure is elevated, you should seek medical care and contact your provider. If you don’t have an established provider, we can assist you in getting established with a primary care physician or specialist,” says Doreen. “Many things that are discussed with your provider feel personal and private, which is why it’s so important to have an established physician that you feel comfortable with."
Taking Charge of Your Whole Health
In honor of National Women’s Health Week, try to find ways to nurture your body, mind and spirit. Eat well, stay active and adopt healthy coping strategies. Know that we’re here to care for your whole health your whole life, and we are all in this together.
When you need care, you don’t have to wait — support is available from the comfort of your own home. With video visits, you can consult a medical provider via computer, tablet or phone. Our women’s health experts are just a click away. Schedule your visit at VideoVisitCare.com or contact our Women’s Health Navigator at Call407-720-5191.