Most of us know that getting a yearly checkup is important, but do you know which preventative women’s healthcare services you need each year? Unfortunately, there’s a lot of confusion around what your annual appointment should include. When you request a women’s annual exam, some physicians only conduct a gynecological exam and a breast exam. However, this may not address your health as a whole.
Instead, make sure you receive a comprehensive women’s wellness exam. These look at many different systems in your body. These appointments can help with preventative care and early detection of serious conditions. This is even more important as we age and our risk for serious health conditions goes up.
Generally speaking, each year you should schedule an appointment to talk about your physical, sexual, reproductive, and mental health. Addressing each of these elements of your wellbeing can help you stay happy and healthy. However, in some clinics this means making multiple appointments and seeing different doctors. Many women each year receive medical exams that only address their sexual and reproductive health.
This often comes down to a misunderstanding of which women’s healthcare services are included in the type of appointment. For example, do you know the difference between a well woman exam and a women’s wellness exam? They may sound like the same thing, but many doctors provide different services for each.
Instead of dividing screenings up between different appointments and doctors, our providers offer total women’s healthcare solutions. This means we look at your health as a whole and can help you address many different aspects of your wellbeing to help you feel your best. We can combine all the services you need for a comprehensive checkup into one appointment to help make things easy for you.
As we’ve mentioned, there’s a lot of confusion around what different terms mean for women’s healthcare. However, most people call their annual gynecological exam a well woman exam. These appointments are designed to mainly address your sexual and reproductive health. During a well woman exam, you might receive a pelvic exam, a Pap test, and a breast exam. You might also talk about family planning or your risk for sexually transmitted infections.
A pelvic exam assesses whether your uterus, cervix, ovaries, and bladder are healthy. This includes a visual and a manual checkup to look for anything that might indicate that something might be wrong. Many physicians recommend getting a pelvic exam once per year, but you may need more or less frequent exams depending on your specific circumstances and risk factors.
Pap tests are a screening tool for cervical cancer and are often done at the same time as the pelvic exam. This test involves swabbing the cervix and then looking the cervical cells for abnormalities. In the past, women were recommended to get a Pap test every year between ages 21 and 65. However, these guidelines have changed, which may lead to some confusion over when you need a Pap test. Current recommendations are to receive a Pap test every three years so long as your past tests have been negative. Depending on your risk factors, our provider may recommend more frequent tests.
Breast exams are another part of a well woman exam and are an important part of preventative women’s healthcare. These exams can help with early detection of many things, including breast cancer. From ages 20 to 40, the recommendation for women at an average risk for breast cancer is to receive a breast exam from their physician every one to three years. After 40, the recommendation is to receive a mammogram every year.
A mammogram is an x-ray for your breasts. Physicians use these x-ray pictures to look for changes to your breast tissue or other signs that could be cancer. Before 40, your breasts tend to be denser, which can make it difficult to detect the signs of cancer on a mammogram. That is why the recommendation switches from routine breast exams to mammograms as we get older.
A well woman exam is an important part of taking care of your health, but it’s not the whole story. A women’s wellness exam helps address your health as a whole and screen for conditions that aren’t necessarily part of your reproductive system.
A women’s wellness exam may include a well woman exam, but also looks at your overall health. At many other clinics, these are the appointments where you talk about your lifestyle and discuss your risks for conditions like high blood pressure.
Our women’s healthcare providers provide comprehensive women’s wellness exams to take a broader look at your health. Yearly checkups with our team include exams and screenings for your physical, mental, sexual, and reproductive health. We may conduct a physical exam, a gynecological exam, a blood test. We’ll also discuss options for staying healthy and any concerns you have about your health.
At your annual women’s wellness exam, our team screens for many different health conditions that may affect you, some of which may not cause any symptoms. For example, depending on your age and risk factors, we might screen for:
Our team personalizes these screenings based on health recommendations and your individual risk factors. Also, we’ll talk to you about your lifestyle and help you determine if there are any changes you can make to help reduce your risk for certain preventable health conditions.
Another important thing to know is that your annual exams and screenings will change as you age. As we get older, our health risks can change. Therefore, your yearly women’s healthcare exams should change, too.
We’ve already mentioned that you may need to switch to mammograms after a certain age, but that’s not the only change. Your exams may look different at each stage of your life. For example, your risk for osteoporosis goes up after menopause. Therefore, we may recommend including a bone density scan as part of your yearly checkup appointment once you reach menopause. Our women’s healthcare team personalizes your exam to you, which means it should change as your lifestyle and health risks do.
In most cases, women should receive both a well woman exam and a women’s wellness exam every year. This can help you with early detection for preventable diseases and conditions. Only receiving a gynecological exam each year will likely not help detect things like high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Our women’s healthcare providers provide comprehensive annual women’s wellness exams to help you stay healthy. We provide both well woman and wellness services to help address your whole health.
At HerKare, our goal is to help you feel your best. Our team provides comprehensive, compassionate care for women at every stage of life. We are a clinic owned and operated by women for women. We listen and we understand your needs. Book an appointment with our team today. We are here for you.