Why yearly checkups are important for women

Even women who are healthy need regular preventive services like breast exams, Pap tests, immunizations, and (starting at age 50) fecal occult blood testing, along with periodic measurements of weight, height, and blood pressure.

“Well woman visits” are the perfect time to accomplish these things - as well as to create good relationships between doctors and patients, reports the May 2007 issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch.

A yearly checkup is also an opportunity to reassess a woman's risk for various conditions. Family history, lifestyle, and other factors may change from year to year and affect a woman's risk profile.

“Seeing a patient for a periodic health exam gives me a chance to check in with her about new health concerns, and to learn about what worries her. I help validate or assuage her concerns, and we can address them together,” says Dr. Celeste Robb-Nicholson, Harvard Women's Health Watch editor in chief. A periodic review of what's going on in a woman's life—her family, work, activities, stresses, and joys—helps doctor and patient collaborate on health care decisions. This may mean finding the best times to take medications or figuring out how to fit in exercise. The visits also help build a strong patient-doctor relationship, which is invaluable when serious health problems arise.

The Harvard Women's Health Watch notes some ways to get the most out of your checkup:

  • Bring written lists of your health concerns and your current medications.
  • Mention any changes in the health of your family.
  • Bring up concerns early in the visit, so there is time to address them.
  • Tell your doctor if a medication is not working for you.

Also in this issue:

  • Pelvic prolapse's genetic link
  • Fitness after age 70
  • Managing jaw pain
  • By the way, doctor: What can I do about vitiligo?

Harvard Women's Health Watch is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $24 per year. Subscribe at www.health.harvard.edu/women or by calling 1-877-649-9457 (toll free).

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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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