Even though COVID-19 has been our nation’s most pressing health concern for the past three months, breast cancer, cervical cancer, heart disease, and diabetes still threaten the health of our communities. Hopefully, you’ve been taking care of yourself, eating right, finding ways to exercise, and taking care of your mental health, but if you’re like most people, you’ve probably let your routine visits to the doctor slide. Health experts worry that, over time, we’ll see more cases of cancer at later stages, increased diabetes complications, and other health conditions that could have been caught early or prevented by routine, preventative care.
AltaMed is doing everything it takes to protect your health – that includes telehealth visits and keeping our facilities clean and sterilized according to the highest standards put forth by the Centers for Disease Control. While some common conditions and issues can be taken care of with a telephone or video chat with your doctor, there are still many preventive treatments and services for women that need to happen in person including routine mammograms, Pap tests, blood pressure screenings, and evaluations to determine if you are taking the right dosage of medication.
Many of these visits are covered at no charge by your health plan, so call us for details and to schedule!
Why You Need a Mammogram
Women have about a 1 in 8 chance that they’ll develop breast cancer in their lifetime. The best way to reduce your risk is to get a mammogram, an X-ray picture of the breast that can help doctors find early signs of breast cancer, sometimes even years before symptoms show up.
Your personal health risks and unique family history will determine when you should start getting mammograms. For healthy women of average risk, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends biennial (once every two years) mammograms beginning at age 50 through age 74. If you have a close relative (parent, sibling, or child) who has had breast cancer, your doctor may recommend that you start getting mammograms as early as age 30. After that, you and your doctor can decide when at how often it’s appropriate to get screened.
In recent years, doctors and specialists have come to question the benefits of breast self-exams at home. Even though self-exams were recommended for years, they haven't been shown to be effective in detecting cancer or improving survival for women with breast cancer. Instead, doctors recommend that you become familiar with what your breasts normally look and feel like. If this changes, make an appointment to see your doctor.
How Often to Screen for Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer used to be one of the most common causes of death for women in the United States, but advances in Pap tests, including increased usage, cut cervical cancer deaths dramatically. Pap tests can save your life!
Pap tests are not just for those who are sexually active or still in their child-bearing years: the average age when women are diagnosed with cervical cancer is 50, and more than 20% of cases are found in women over the age of 65. Pap tests should be started early. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends:
- If you are between the ages of 21 and 65, get a Pap test every three years
- If you are between the ages of 30 and 65 and want to screen less frequently, you may be able to have a Pap smear with specific HPV testing every five years
Your doctor will make recommendations based on your own unique health history and your family history.
Schedule Your Well-Woman Visit
Well-woman visits are essential and should be scheduled in addition to your mammograms and Pap tests. They’re recommended for any woman of reproductive age or older (generally around 13 - 15) and can be scheduled through a primary care doctor or an OB/GYN.
Because well-woman visits focus on preventive care, each visit may be slightly different based on your age and your unique health needs. Your visit may include:
- Age-appropriate immunizations (for example, the flu vaccine or a TD shot, if needed)
- Age-appropriate health screenings, which could include checking your blood pressure or a pelvic floor exam
- Recommendations for additional testing to screen for cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or depression, as needed
In addition to asking about your health history, your doctor may ask about any health goals and make recommendations to help you achieve those goals. To make the most of these visits, come prepared: think about any health questions you have, in advance, and take notes.
We’re Here for Every Age and Every Stage of Your Life
Trust AltaMed to support your unique health needs. From primary care and specialists to dentistry, behavioral health services, and pharmacy, we are dedicated to caring for women and those they love. Schedule an appointment today.