Juggling a demanding career, social commitments, and the needs of parents, partners and children can be a lot to handle, so it’s not surprising that many women are quick to put their health needs on the back burner to conquer their to-do lists. This year, make your health a first priority by scheduling a well-woman visit.
“As we age, many people assume that unless they’re sick or notice any troubling symptoms, they don’t need to visit the doctor, but an annual well visit can benefit patients at any age,” says Maria Bucco, DO, internal medicine physician at Riddle Hospital.
A well-woman visit involves a number of different aspects to ensure that patients are healthy and address any current or potential health concerns.
General health screenings
Blood pressure levels, immunization records, height and weight…these are all general health indicators that your physician should be noting during every visit. But that’s not all. During your well-woman visit, discuss your personal and family medical history with your physician. This will help them determine which screenings are necessary for you and at what age you should have them. It’s also the time to discuss your social history, including smoking and alcohol consumption, and potential occupational exposures that may put your health at risk.
Women’s health screenings
Whether you are an adolescent, a woman in her child-bearing years, or post-menopausal, there are special considerations at every age. Immunizations and appropriate vitamin and mineral supplementation will be reviewed during your well-woman visit, as well as safety issues for each stage of a woman’s life.
Your physician can make recommendations on when it is appropriate to see a gynecologist for the first time for a pelvic exam or Pap smear, and when to schedule your first mammogram, colonoscopy, rectal exam, or bone density exam. They can also offer advice on conducting self-breast exams for women who do not yet need mammograms or to be conducted in between mammogram appointments.
Patient / physician communication
Some face-to-face time with your physician makes a well-woman visit the ideal opportunity to address any health concerns or questions that may have come up in the past year. Remember to keep your primary care physician up to date on any significant changes in your health history since your last visit.
“A well-woman visit is the perfect opportunity to talk to your doctor about a health issue that you’ve been dealing with but haven’t addressed with a health provider,” says Dr. Bucco. “When you visit the doctor because you’re sick, you forget to ask about those things. This is a chance to have a list of prepared questions and one-on-one time with your doctor.”
Whether you’re struggling with emotional or physical symptoms, talk to your physician during your visit. They can answer questions, help you resolve these issues, or refer you to a specialist if necessary.
Remember that, even if you don’t notice any alarming symptoms or feel sick, a well-woman visit can be beneficial in many ways. Many health risks, like cancer, heart disease and high cholesterol or blood pressure don’t have noticeable symptoms. They are picked up on routine physical examinations or a screening tool. A visit with your physician can help catch these health risks, address them in the early stages, and potentially save your life.