With all of the trends in medicine and wellness leaping off the TV screen, phone, and computer every day, it can be difficult to keep perspective on the core essentials you need to maintain your health. These 4 medical exams should be on every woman’s “to-do” list as a base for your head-to-toe wellness.
Starting at age 21 all women should get a pelvic exam every 1-3 years. During a pelvic exam, a doctor - usually an OBGYN - will perform a pap smear to screen for cervical cancer, and perform a physical exam of the vulva, vagina, cervix, ovaries, uterus, and rectum which can provide early detection of issues like ovarian cysts or sexually transmitted infections. Pelvic exams also commonly include blood and/or urine STI testing. “Regular pelvic exams are a critical part of preventative care, and are often your first line of defense for early detection of conditions that can affect your health, fertility, and even your life,” said Dr. James Gohar. As a rule, as long as you have a clean bill of health will only need a pelvic exam every 2-3 years. If your doctor spots an issue, he or she may recommend that you have more frequent exams to monitor your condition or receive treatment.
You’re probably already doing self-breast exams (right?) but having the input of a trained medical professional is always helpful. Breast exams look for growths in the breast that may be cancerous. These exams are important because if a woman does have breast cancer, her chances of successfully treating the disease is much higher the earlier early she catches it, Often you can have a breast exam done along with your pelvic exam (this kind of combination appointment is sometimes referred to as a “wellness” or “well woman” visit). Every woman’s breast tissue is unique, which is why doing self-exams is important. If you know what your breasts normally feel like, it will be easier for you to notice if something is out of the ordinary. OBGYNs and breast cancer specialists are trained in performing breast exams and have the tools to identify whether lumps and bumps are part of normal, healthy breast tissue or a cause for concern. Like a pelvic exam, early detection is key.
Skin Cancer Screening
Did you know that every year there are more new cases of skin cancer than breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer and lung cancer combined? About 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their life. Getting a skin cancer screening by a dermatologist every year can help you catch any issues early on, and the treatment is often as simple as removing a mole or dark spot right there in the office.
At least once every 5 years you should be getting a blood panel to check your cholesterol levels. “Bad” cholesterol (LDL), “good” cholesterol (HDL), and triglycerides are all part of this test and can be an early marker of heart disease and stroke. Keeping an eye on your cholesterol levels with your doctor can help you understand your risk and make lifestyle changes to reduce your chances of having a heart attack or stroke. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americana women, and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels can significantly reduce your risk.