Routine Women’s Health Check-Ups: Understanding Screenings and Preventive Care

Premier Medical Group stands committed to helping more women gain the knowledge they need to maintain their health. Regular check-ups and screenings are an essential part of a healthy routine since it helps women establish preventive care while reducing risks for chronic and life-threatening conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, breast and cervical cancer, for instance. Such routine check ups and screening also aid in early detection of ailments, resulting in increased access to timely treatment. 

Preventative Care and Aging

Most women have established care with a general practitioner. As women age and approach puberty, additional specialists and screenings may be needed to continue to maintain good health. For example, seeing a gynecologist for smear tests and sexual health, or a rheumatologist for managing care of chronic autoimmune disorders. 

While not all women will need to see certain specialists annually, it’s more important than ever to know what preventative care looks like as you age. Here’s what you need to know and can expect from routine women’s health check-ups and their related screenings:

  • Physical exam: 

A physical exam typically represents an essential part in a woman’s health care experience. During a routine exam, your doctor will check your vitals, including blood pressure, heart rate, and temperature. In many health care practices, these checks are performed by a nurse ahead of the specialist who would then perform a physical exam as needed. 

The physical exam may include examination of the breasts, thyroid gland, and abdomen to detect signs of abnormality such as lumps. Should signs of abnormality be present, the doctor may then recommend or involve other specialists such as endocrinologists who deal with hormonal irregularities associated with thyroid or other organs within the endocrine system.

  • Pap smear: 

A Pap test or Pap smear helps doctors detect or prevent cervical cancer. During this exam, a gynecologist or midwife uses special instruments to collect cells from the cervix. These cells provide information about the health of one’s cervix and can help doctors spot abnormalities such as precancerous growth – changes in the cells that can lead to cervical cancer if left untreated. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that women between the ages of 21 and 65 get a Pap smear every one to three years. A woman’s general health, family history, sexual activity or your primary care doctor’s recommendation are factors that influence how often a woman may need to do a Pap smear. Since cervical cancer typically develops slowly, preventative care is essential in helping women maintain their health. 

  • Mammogram

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. This disease also has one of the highest rates of cancer-related deaths in women – second only to lung cancer.*

Mammograms, a type of X-ray, help doctors detect breast cancer. Since these tests can detect breast cancer, even in its earliest stages, such screenings are essential. Women can reduce their risk of having breast cancer by screening as often as is recommended. For women between the ages of 50 and 74, a mammogram should be done every two years. Women with a family history of breast cancer may need to start getting mammograms earlier. Should you have any concerns related to the health of your breasts or should you have a history of breast cancer in your family, your doctor can provide the guidance and support you need. The first step is for you to ask questions and share your concerns at your next doctor’s appointment. 

  • Colonoscopy screening

Colonoscopy or colorectal cancer screening helps doctors check for abnormalities in the large intestine before patients are experiencing symptoms for diseases such as colon cancer. Women and men are now encouraged to begin this kind of cancer screening at age 45 – instead of at age 50 which was the previous age recommendation for colonoscopy. In addition to helping doctors screen for early signs of colorectal cancer, a colonoscopy can help doctors detect the cause for blood in the stool, changes in bowel habits, and unexplained weight loss. It also helps doctors to spot signs of other diseases such as irritable bowel disease (IBD). 

To prepare for the screening, doctors typically provide specific instructions regarding what patients can eat in the days leading up to the screening. Patients, for instance, are typically advised to eat low fiber foods for about two days followed by a liquid diet the day before the colonoscopy is being performed. A gastroenterologist who typically performs the colonoscopy screening may provide light sedative which results in patients feeling no pain during the procedure. 

  • Skin cancer screening

Melanoma, the most serious of all skin cancers, accounts for only 1% of skin cancers but results in the majority of skin cancer deaths according to the American Cancer Society. Women can reduce their risk of developing skin cancer through skin cancer screening. Skin cancer screening can help doctors spot signs of melanoma or other skin cancers early and improve outcomes for patients with such ailments.

The screening involves visual inspection of your skin and may take at least 10 minutes. The doctor checks for signs of cancer that may be present long before symptoms begin to occur.  This may be a full-body screening where the doctor checks for birthmarks, moles or areas of the skin that look abnormal in shape, texture, color or size. The doctor may perform a biopsy should he or she spot an abnormality in the skin. If an area on the skin looks abnormal, the doctor may remove a small portion of the skin for testing. This procedure is called a biopsy.

  • Bone density test: 

As women (and men) age, bones become more brittle; cartilage can also begin to wear, leading to inflammation and pain in the joints. Women, particularly older women who have gone through menopause, are at higher risk for developing osteoporosis – the disease that results in bones becoming more brittle.

A bone density test is used to measure the strength of your bones. Doctors recommend that women over the age of 65 get a bone density test. Women who are at high risk for osteoporosis may need to get the test earlier.

  • Blood tests: 

Blood tests often occur as part of routine medical exams or annual wellness physicals. These tests can provide a comprehensive view of an individual’s overall health through the identification of cholesterol levels, thyroid function, and blood sugar levels. 

Your doctor may recommend the appropriate blood tests based on aspects of your health that the doctors need to verify. The types of blood tests that will be recommended can be influenced by factors that include your age, medical history, and your level of risk for developing certain conditions.

Support Preventative Care with Healthy Habits 

In addition to performing general check ups and screenings, your doctor may recommend certain lifestyle changes to help you maintain your health and reduce your risk of developing certain conditions. These changes may include the following:

  1. Eating a healthy diet that’s low in saturated fats and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  2. Getting regular exercise, such as brisk walking, swimming, or cycling.
  3. Not smoking or using tobacco products.
  4. Limiting alcohol consumption.
  5. Managing stress through relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation.
  6. Do self-checks regularly for your breast and skin to help you spot abnormalities or concerns that you can then share with your doctor.

Be sure to discuss your healthcare needs with your doctor at Premier Medical Group and follow their recommendations for screenings and preventive care.