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The Importance of Well Woman Exams: Keep It On Your Calendar
Recommendations about women’s health screening have changed in recent years, and often-conflicting information can lead to confusion. For instance, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, not every woman needs an annual screening for cervical cancer, known as a Pap test. Authorities on breast cancer also vary on their recommendations for mammograms, but it is important to listen to your body and be proactive—no matter what the guidelines may say.
What hasn’t changed, however, is an across-the-board recommendation for annual well woman exams. In fact, annual well woman exams are considered routine preventive care as outlined by the Affordable Care Act.
Even if a Pap test is not performed, an annual pelvic exam allows your doctor to check your vulva, vagina, cervix, uterus, rectum, ovaries, and pelvis, comparing each part of the pelvis with the results from the previous year’s exam. As a woman enters various phases of the hormonal cycle in her life, there will be changes in a woman’s anatomy. Regular pelvic exams help to track these changes and give patients opportunities to discuss any concerns with her physician.
Clinical Breast Exams
A clinical breast exam (CBE) is part of a well woman visit, which offers an opportunity to discuss a personal schedule for mammogram screenings. Many health authorities now recommend biennial (every two years) mammogram screenings for women ages 50-74. Other equally reliable authorities continue to recommend annual mammograms beginning at age 40 and continuing beyond age 74.
**It is essential to remember that the best defense against breast cancer is a good offense. Monthly breast self-exams should be done in-between clinical breast exams. The biggest reason for non-compliance in doing monthly breast self-exams is, “I don’t know what I am feeling for.” This is precisely why a woman should make this part of her monthly routine. The more familiar a woman is with the findings in her breast during self-exams, the more she will know what is normal and what is not. With practice, each month will become easier.
Colorectal cancer screening guidelines, as well as most patients’ reluctance to get screened, have remained relatively stable over the years.
The stigma of the prep for the colonoscopy and the sensitive nature of the procedure can quickly cause undue stress and anxiety.
Most colon cancers arise from a single polyp. A colonoscopy can detect and treat the polyp during the procedure itself. But often if the polyp is not removed, this can and often does lead to colon cancer. Isn’t it better to endure a few hours of discomfort for the prep and procedure of a colonoscopy rather than enduring a removal of part of the colon for a treatable colon cancer?
A Discussion About Overall Health
An annual well visit also focuses on general overall health and maintains an ongoing discussion between you and your doctor about healthy lifestyle choices, reducing or eliminating health risks, weight concerns and healthy aging (inside and out). Screenings that facilitate these discussions include full in-depth discussions on physical, emotional, psychological and environmental stressors. A detailed blood work and physical exam with blood pressure, body mass index (BMI) screenings and body fat analysis will help identify the source of symptoms. A symptom is your body’s way of talking with you. DON’T IGNORE THESE WARNING SIGNS!
As your well woman exam appointment approaches, you might consider other issues that affect your overall health and be prepared to cover these areas with your doctor, including:
- Contraceptive counseling
- Tobacco, alcohol or drug use
- Depression screening
- Vaccines and immunizations
- HIV screening
- Sexually transmitted infection (STI) screening
View your annual well woman exam as an opportunity to partner with your doctor on the business of your good health. The active role you take in your day-to-day health is encouraged and supported by your doctor, and your well woman visit is the best way to review and fine-tune your efforts.
Dr. Raman’s Concierge Medical Practice is focused on holistic care and good health maintenance through routine wellness exams.
For more information on well woman exams or to schedule an appointment, please CONTACT our office today! You can also learn more by connecting with Dr. Raman on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.