May is Women's Health Month! This yearly initiative aims to remind women of all ages and walks of life to take charge of their health, learn more about common issues, and discuss any concerns they may have with their healthcare providers.
One of the best ways to stay on top of your health is with regular checkups, including annual physicals and routine screening. Regular testing and assessments can help identify potential health risks early, giving you the best chance of being proactive with your health. In honor of Women’s Health Month, let’s take a look at why these routine screenings are so important and how you can ensure that your health is a top priority.
The Importance Of Women's Health Care
Throughout history, women have left a lasting impact on societies, communities, and cultures throughout the world. Their contributions span various fields, from to raising the next generations of leaders. This dedication to the world around them is admirable, but it can also lead women to .
In addition, women have also been in clinical trials and research on certain health problems. In the 1940s and 1950s, for instance, nearly all medical research was done by male researchers on male subjects, which means that women’s health care was essentially an afterthought. Fortunately, we’ve come a long way since then.
Comprehensive care for women is important because it helps to ensure that women maintain their physical and mental health throughout life. By participating in specialized care, routine screenings, and checkups, women can be better informed about their personal health risks and make decisions to prevent or manage any issues that may arise.
Routine Screenings Recommended for Women
There is a range of disorders, diseases, and changes that women and their physicians should look out for as they age. From issues like pelvic floor disorders and breast cancer to changes like pregnancy and menopause, a woman will have unique needs and require different kinds of support from specialists throughout her life.
Starting at age 40, or earlier if they have a higher risk of breast cancer, women should have an annual mammogram. A mammogram is a simple test that involves taking an X-ray image of the breasts to look for signs of breast cancer, like abnormal changes in the breast tissue. In fact, mammograms can detect breast cancer a lump can be felt during a breast exam. In other words, mammograms can help catch breast cancer early when it’s most treatable and potentially even curable.
It's recommended that women get a Pap smear every three years from the ages of 21 to 30, then every five years from 30 to 65. A Pap smear is a screening test that looks for any abnormalities in the cells of the cervix that might indicate cervical cancer. Specifically, the test checks for cells that are cancerous or have the potential to become cancerous. A Pap smear can also detect certain infections or inflammation.
Pelvic exams, which women should schedule on an annual basis starting at the age of 21, are a screening tool that can be used to detect any changes in the uterus or ovaries. During a pelvic exam, your doctor will feel for any abnormalities such as lumps or cysts, and if you're due for one, will also perform a Pap smear. Attending an annual pelvic exam also gives you the opportunity to voice any concerns you might have, like pelvic pain, fertility issues, irregular periods, heavy menstruation, etc.
For women going through menopause, which typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, hormone testing can be beneficial to detect any imbalances in your levels of estrogen and progesterone. Hormone testing can also help to identify the cause of certain symptoms, like hot flashes and night sweats, and inform your doctor about how best to provide treatment.
Benefits of Early Detection and Prevention
With routine screenings and specialty care, women can help themselves stay healthy and catch issues before they become more serious. Early detection and prevention can be life-saving, as it's often easier to treat a problem when it's caught early on. It can also help to alleviate any anxiety or stress associated with not knowing the cause of certain symptoms.
For example, let's say you're visiting us for your annual pelvic exam. You haven't been experiencing any symptoms, but your Pap smear reveals that there have been some changes in your cervical cells. Because this problem has been spotted early, thanks to you attending your routine exams, your doctor can start treating this problem and prevent it from developing into full-blown cervical cancer.
Preventive screenings and care allow doctors to catch issues in their early stages, making treatment and recovery much easier. That might mean a patient only has to deal with minimally-invasive procedures in order to get better, rather than a more serious, intensive, and costly course of treatment.
This is also why it's important to visit your primary care physician each year. Just as your OBGYN will be able to spot breast or cervical cancer early, your PCP can catch other health issues like heart disease and diabetes. And if you do have any underlying conditions, they can help you manage them before they get worse.
Schedule With Advanced Women’s Care of Pittsburgh
At , we are dedicated to improving women's health through expert, personalized care and education. Our team specializes in preventive screenings and advanced care to help women stay well and focus on what matters most—their health and well-being!