Annual Checkups Deliver Value to Women

Women are natural jugglers. With careers or school, spouses, children, and maybe a vacation or hobby, they still run circles around the Cirque de Soleil. As a family medicine physician, I know first-hand that women frequently put others’ needs first and their own health needs second. I encourage women to reconsider the value of regular checkups, screenings and conversations with your primary care physician.

For starters, screening and regular checkups can save lives. They can help women avoid late detection of many health issues. An easy example is cervical cancer screening. Most cervical cancers are easy to detect with regular screening and, if found early, are highly curable.

I see a two-fold value in women regularly seeing their doctor. First, the doctor will identify areas where their patients can improve their health and will collaborate with them. Secondly, because everyone is different, the doctor can help them implement changes in ways that will be effective and work with their lifestyle and situation.

The changes many women should consider making are in some ways obvious, but they are difficult to do—otherwise, we would already be doing them. I call these therapeutic lifestyle changes. These involve diet and nutrition, exercise, getting adequate sleep, and so forth. They also include minimizing negative behaviors such as smoking, alcohol intake, unhealthy food and stress. For example, it’s important to manage stress in a healthy way, rather than by drinking or eating too much. The primary care doctor can also help patients who are having trouble coping with life’s stressors by arranging for them to get counseling when needed or by identifying if they are having biochemical imbalance issues.

To get a handle on your health, begin with an annual physical. During this appointment, your provider will conduct regular screenings such as for breast cancer, colon cancer, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Your provider will also explore your medical history to look for risks based on past medical issues, your psycho-social history and family history.

Of great importance to many women is, of course, contraception and sexual health. Counseling about contraceptives and other aspects of sexual health occurs during annual visits, as well. Younger women can learn about the latest advances in contraceptives, while women in the perimenopausal years may have questions about their real needs for contraceptive management and associated risk factors.

From screenings to getting your questions answered to making lifestyle changes, your basic checkup offers an opportunity to keep your health at its optimum level. Call your doctor’s office today. Ideally, it’s always better to catch health issues early.