I am 35 years old and I have no idea what yearly check-ups I’m supposed to be scheduling. Sure, I make my appointment for a Pap smear every year, but there are other women’s health check-ups that should be on my yearly agenda. Women between the ages of 19 and 39 often wait to go to the doctor until there is a health problem, but regularly scheduled check-ups can detect problems before they start and help women live longer, happier lives. Check-ups are about more than just a visit to the doctor; there are also immunization schedules and self-checks that need to be completed every year.
Breast self-exams help detect breast cancer earlier. While women between the ages of 19 and 39 do not have to schedule a mammogram every year, unless a lump has been detected in the past, self-exams should be a regular part of life. Instead of scheduling self-breast exams, some women prefer to exam breasts in the shower every day. This gives the woman a “feel” for healthy breast tissue. If a lump were to appear, early detection is easier with daily self-breast exams.
How to perform a daily self-breast exam. While in the shower, raise the left arm straight over the head. Use the right hand to feel breast tissue. Remember to cover all breast area including under the breast and near the underarm. Repeat with the right arm raised over the head using the left hand to perform the self-breast exam.Rush University Medical Center offers instructions on self-breast exam from a laying position.
Pap smear tests are not required every year. Yearly Pap smears are no longer required for women with a history of healthy Pap smear screenings. After the age of 21, according to Womenshealth.gov, women should schedule a Pap smear every two years. If screenings are clear through the age of 30, Pap smears should be scheduled every three years. If a Pap smear comes back with questionable results, a yearly schedule should be followed until your gynecologist feels safe moving the schedule to two or three year increments.
Immunizations continue beyond childhood. Babies and children get immunizations leading up to school years. After starting school, there are only a few immunizations most parents are aware of to maintain child health. What most women don’t know is that immunizations should continue through adulthood. Immunizations suggested for women between the ages of 19 and 39 as part of a regular women’s health check-up schedule include influenza, Tdap, Varicella, HPV, MMR, Pneumococcal, Meningococcal, Hep A and Hep B. Check out the interactive immunization schedule on Womenshealth.gov for detailed information on adult immunization schedules.
Don’t forget eyes and ears. Regularly scheduled eye exams should take place every six to 12 months. Women who wear glasses or contacts may need to schedule appointments every six months if vision changes, otherwise yearly exams are appropriate. Ear exams should be scheduled every 10 years with the first being scheduled between the ages of 19 and 39 as part of a regular women’s health check-up schedule.
Take control of your health and schedule regular women’s health check-ups. Print this list, share with friends and make your health check-up appointments today.