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The 13th annual National Women’s Checkup Day is Monday, May 11, 2015, a day when women are encouraged to schedule their annual “well-woman visit.” This day is part of National Women’s Health Week, which begins on Mother’s Day.
This special day, led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, points out that your well-woman checkup should focus on preventative care: services (e.g., shots), screening (e.g., tests), and education. 1
Be informed and aware about your health and healthcare. Don’t wait until you get sick or have a problem. Get your well-woman visit once a year. The 2010 Affordable Care Act requires most insurance plans to cover one annual well-woman visit and many preventive services. 2 3
Know your family health history before you go. You can use this tool to create one. Take a written list of questions with you to your appointment, and a pen to write down the answers. Also, bring a list of your current medications and supplements, including names and doses.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you review any existing health problems and discuss any changes you’ve noticed. Be sure to mention if you’ve had any changes in or problems with: your skin (including changes in moles, rashes or the sudden appearance of lumps), your menstrual cycles or eating habits. Also discuss any cases of pain, dizziness and fatigue, or problems with your bladder or bowels. 4
Yes, screenings can find problems early. Ask about recommended frequency and age for a pelvic exam, and screening tests for breast cancer (breast exam, mammogram), cervical cancer (Pap smear), human papillomavirus (HPV test), and colon cancer (stool test, colonoscopy). It is also important to get screenings for: height, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. 5
Absolutely. It’s important to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases and infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, trichomoniasis, and HIV/AIDS, and to get treatment right away before they can cause serious health problems. 6 7
Yes, your well-woman visit should include a discussion about your mental health. If you are taking medications for mental health problems, it is important to tell your doctor about these medications and to be aware of their potential side effects. Educate yourself about antidepressants. If you are prescribed either of the antidepressants Zoloft or Paxil, both selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), make sure you ask about possible interactions with other medications and side effects. In a safety announcement, the FDA said there is a potential risk of a rare heart and lung condition known as persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) when women use SSRIs during pregnancy. It is important to ask questions and understand all the risks.
Yes, there are several available treatments, including, among others, pelvic floor strengthening exercises, if you’re experiencing problems with your bladder, which may be due to pelvic organ prolapse or stress urinary incontinence. One of the surgical treatments for pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence, known as urogynecologic or transvaginal mesh (TVM), can cause a variety of severe side effects that may have a significant impact on your quality of life. Be sure you understand the risks associated with these devices, and ask your doctor to discuss more conservative treatments before immediately considering surgery.
Be sure to discuss any concerns you have regarding pregnancy and your reproductive organs, including birth control options. Make sure you’re informed about the side effects of any medications or devices your doctor may recommend. For example, did you know that the FDA has issued a safety communication warning that the use of power morcellators during gynecologic surgery poses a risk of spreading unsuspected cancer tissue outside the uterus? A power morcellator is a surgical device sometimes used during a hysterectomy or myomectomy to shred, grind and core tissue into smaller pieces or fragments for removal through small laparoscopic incisions. If a woman has undetected cancer, this device could spread the cancerous tissue throughout the body and worsen cancer prognosis. So, be sure to ask questions and understand all the risks associated with gynecologic surgery before agreeing to surgery.
Yes. As your physical capabilities permit, your doctor will more than likely advise you to exercise, including both cardiovascular aerobic and strength-training exercises. You will more than likely also be encouraged to eat a nutritious diet, and maintain a healthy weight. 8
Don’t forget about your teeth, eyes, skin and ears.
Make an appointment for your well-woman checkup. Spread the word through social media: #CheckupDay.