Ladies, it’s NEVER too late or too early to get your health on track.  Healthy eating habits and regular aerobic exercise are half the battle to optimal health.  While you might have outgrown your “well child” exams to evaluate your growth and development, you NEVER outgrow the need to have a yearly routine health maintenance exam or “yearly checkup”?  Many health conditions, if detected early, can be prevented. 

As you know, October is well known for raising awareness for breast cancer which makes it a great time to take care of YOU.  But did you know that October is also the month for raising awareness for bone health (osteoporosis prevention), mental illness, domestic violence, and bullying prevention, just to name a few?  Just a few more reasons to get in, if you haven’t already, for your yearly health “maintenance” exam.  Afterall, the best protection is early detection. 

What might be done at these visits:

  • Basic eye exam
  • Discussion about life changes including education on and management of contraception, sterilization procedures, changes in menstrual periods, menopausal management, and any accompanying depression/anxiety.
  • Blood work or “Labs”
    • a complete metabolic panel (CMP)
    • complete blood count (CBC)
    • a thyroid stimulating hormone level (TSH)
    • glucose
    • hemoglobin A1c (hgbA1c) to check for diabetes
    • a lipid panel to evaluate your cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL (healthy) and LDL (lousy) cholesterol levels.
  • Review and update immunizations.
    • Influenza “the flu shot” which is traditionally recommended for everyone, yearly. 
    • Tetanus (Tdap) is typically recommended every 10 years. 
    • Pneumonia (PCV-13 and PPSV-23) dosing care vary with age and medical history.
    • Shingles (Shingrix) is a series of 2 injections recommended typically after age 50.  Even if you received the Zostavax previously, you may still qualify for the Shingrix vaccine.  Please talk to your provider about what is recommended for you. 

Some information on typical recommended screenings:

Screening for cervical cancer starts at age 21 and is recommended through age 65.  Beginning at age 21, your provider will likely recommend that you have a pelvic exam that MAY include a pap test, HPV test, or both.  Frequency of testing is dependent on several factors including a history of previous abnormal results with, as well as age and other risk factors.

Screening for breast cancer typically begins at age 40 and done yearly through age 74 or when you and your provider feel that screening can be stopped or changed.  If there is a family history of breast cancer, please talk with your provider about when YOU should begin screening. 

Self-breast exams are recommended monthly.  To perform correctly, it is important to be consistent with evaluations and do them at the same time each month.  AVOID self-breast exams when on your period for a more accurate exam.  If you experience discomfort/pain, feel lumps/bumps, have redness of the breast tissue, unexplained breast swelling, nipple discharge, changes in the texture of your breast tissue, or concerns about your breast(s) please talk to your provider, right away. 

Screening for colorectal cancer is now recommended to begin at age 45.   While a colonoscopy is typically recommended, doing Cologuard testing, may be a good alternative for some.  Speak with your provider about which testing is right for you.

Bone Density testing —- Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) is used to evaluate for bone loss.  It is recommended to begin screening women typically around age 65+ and in postmenopausal women younger than age 65 who are at an increased risk for osteoporosis.  Talk to your provider to see when you should start screening.  Before this exam, it is important that you avoid taking any supplements, particularly Calcium, for at least 24 hours prior to the exam. 

Please call any of the GCH Clinics, if you have any questions or concerns or simply want to schedule your yearly checkup today.

Sara Van Effen, ARNP