Mother’s Day has always been a time to tell the Moms in your life how important they are. Now Mother’s Day can serve an additional role – it kicks off National Women’s Health Week and National Women’s Screening Day, reminding females that their health is also very important to their loved ones.
National Women’s Health Week was set up 16 years ago by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health to empower women to make their health a priority. The week also serves as a time to help women understand what steps they can take to improve their health. It starts on Mother’s Day, May 10, and is celebrated through May 16.
Here are some simple steps any woman can take to improve her health:
National Women’s Checkup Day is led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. The 13th annual National Women’s Checkup Day is Monday, May 11. It’s a day when women are encouraged to schedule their annual well-woman visit.
A well-woman visit is a checkup and is a good opportunity to:
- Discuss your family history, family planning, and personal habits, such as alcohol and tobacco use.
- Get or schedule necessary tests, such as screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, and colorectal cancer.
- Set health goals, such as being active and maintaining a healthy weight. A well-woman visit helps you get the preventive care you need, including screenings. Screenings can find diseases early, when they are easier to treat. Screenings can also identify other problems and help lower your risk for many conditions, such as heart disease. During your well-woman visit, you can receive or schedule many screenings free of charge.Here is a handy checklist of the annual health screenings you should be getting and when you should get them. Clip it out and keep it handy, or create a spreadsheet to keep a health record.
- Annual Screenings Checklist for Women
- Schedule your well-woman visit every year. It’s now considered a preventive service and must be covered by most health plans at no cost to you. And if your doctor or nurse says you need more than one well-woman visit in a year, the additional visits are also covered.
Why: If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to heart disease and stroke.
When: Beginning at age 18, annually; more often, if high; every two years, if normal.
Why: It’s important to check for abnormalities in your breasts and report them to
When: Beginning at age 20, monthly.
Why: Abnormal cholesterol levels such as high LDL (bad) or low HDL (good) are a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
When: Beginning at age 20; at least every five years, if normal.
Why: Clinical Breast Exams are conducted by a medical professional in addition to mammograms to check women for any signs of breast cancer.
When: Beginning at age 20, every three years; annually after age 40.
- Fasting Blood Glucose Test
- Why: If left untreated, high blood glucose or “blood sugar” can increase the risk for heart disease and stroke.
Why: Mammograms are performed to screen healthy women for
signs of breast cancer.
When: Baseline mammogram between ages 35-40; annually after that.
Why: Pap smear is one of the best tools to detect cervical cancer at its earliest stages.
When: Annually beginning at age 18 or as soon as sexually active.
Why: A bone density test is one of the most accurate ways to assess
your bone health and can help confirm a diagnosis of osteoporosis.
When: Recommended for postmenopausal women under age 65; all women after age 65; sooner if at increased risk.
Why: Skin cancer usually starts out as a precancerous lesion—changes
in the skin that are not cancer, but could become cancer over time.
When: Perform a self-exam on a monthly basis; clinical screening every three years (adults age 20-39); annually after age 40.
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone
Why: Levels outside of the normal range can indicate a problem with the thyroid gland that needs further testing.
When: Beginning at age 35; every few years after that based on your doctor’s discretion.
- Colorectal Cancer Screening
Why: By undergoing a routine colonoscopy, benign growths
in the colon known as polyps can be easily removed. If left inside the colon, these polyps have the potential to develop into cancer.
When: Colonoscopy—Beginning at age 50, every 10 years; more frequently if you have a family history.
Sometimes the hardest part of finding the right doctor is knowing where to start. Here are some tips on finding the right physician and on being a better patient:
- Find Dr. Right – Choose a primary care physician you’re comfortable with and have confidence in. Ask about the office hours, the doctor’s treatment philosophy and who will care for you when your doctor is unavailable.
- Be prepared – Even the best doctors are not mind readers so tell them everything about your health. Be honest about your personal and family medical history. If you are experiencing symptoms, tell your doctor everything about them.
- Ask questions. Write down your questions beforehand. When your doctor tells you something you don’t understand, ask questions. Start by repeating back in your own words what your doctor tells you.
- Seek a second opinion. If you are uncomfortable with a diagnosis or treatment plan, get a second opinion. And don’t worry about offending your doctor. A good physician will want you to be comfortable with your diagnosis.
Visit Marshall Medical Center’s website at www.mmcenters.com for more information.
Rose Myers is a journalist working for Marshall Medical Center’s marketing department.