This year, Sunday, May 14 marks not only Mother’s Day, but also the kickoff to National Women’s Health Week. Women’s Health Week serves as a great reminder about the importance of annual checkups and health screenings for women.
We asked Dr. Teressa Watts, OurHealth’s medical director for the Charlotte MyClinic network, about why checkups and screenings are so important. “You want to be proactive. Checkups are important, overall, to make sure you know you’re healthy,” Dr. Watts says.
In general, an annual checkup includes a thorough head-to-toe exam; screenings based on gender, age, or risk factors like family history; and time to talk about your health history, recent issues, and any ongoing concerns.
Get informed, get screened
The other important benefit to annual checkups and screenings is early detection for diseases. Check out these recommended screenings based on factors like age and family history.
- Blood pressure: Should begin at age 18 and continue every checkup.
- Cholesterol: Should begin around age 20 and continue every checkup.
- Body mass index: Should occur during every checkup.
- Skin exams: Should occur during every annual checkup. Make sure to ask your doctor to look at new moles or freckles, especially if they’ve been hurting or itching.
- Breast Exams: Should begin at age 18, or earlier if a girl is taking hormones like birth control.
- Pap smears and pelvic exams: Should begin at age 20, or when sexual activity begins. Recommended frequency varies based on age, sexual history, and the presence of viruses like HPV.
For a more comprehensive list of screening recommendations for women, check out womenshealth.gov.
Speak up, ask questions
“The most important thing is to ask questions and be proactive in your health,” Dr. Watts says. “Some people are intimidated when they visit the doctor, but I tell patients ‘It’s a partnership.’ It’s your body – I can’t help you unless you talk to me and give me information.”
She adds that the effectiveness of that partnership also relies on being prepared for the appointment. She recommends that patients come prepared to talk about health concerns or issues – and mention them early in the appointment to ensure there’s adequate time to address them.
If you’re a member of the OurHealth clinic network and need an annual checkup or screening, OurHealth provides preventive care and screening procedures, frequently at low cost or no cost to patients. To request an appointment, log-in to OurHealth, or call 866-434-3255.