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Early detection of disease and other health issues can be important in helping any patient live healthier, happier, and in some cases, longer. In fact, early detection can significantly increase the chances of survival for certain diseases, including many forms of cancer. That is why experts recommend adherence to a regular schedule for medical examinations and the appropriate screenings based on your demographics and risk factors.
For women, taking control of their health and being proactive includes recommended preventive care and screening for conditions that are specific to them, such as those relating to reproductive and breast health. For example, doctors recommend regularly-scheduled screenings for women such as mammograms, Pap tests, pelvic exams and more, based on age and other risk factors. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer (2nd), ovarian cancer(5th) and uterine cancer(6th) rank among the top six causes of cancer deaths among women, with breast cancer being the most-diagnosed type of cancer in women.
But there may be instances when the often-recommended schedule for preventative care isn’t “one size fits all,” according to Constance Wurzbacher MD, an OB-GYN with TriHealth’s For Women and TriHealth Women’s Services. That is why she urges women to follow an annual schedule for an examination with their OB-GYN, to receive the care that is right for them.
“For most women, sticking to the recommended schedule is good enough,” Dr. Wurzbacher says, “but based on factors such as age, your medical history and your family’s medical history, you could be at a higher risk for certain diseases, and we might recommend a different schedule. That’s why we tell our patients, ‘Come in every year for your annual physical and we’ll have that conversation and we’ll recommend a schedule that’s personalized for you.”
According to Dr. Wurzbacher, one concerning trend seen by her colleagues is women who schedule their OB-GYN examinations around the schedule of having a Pap test every three years.
“If you only see your OB-GYN once every three years, that’s a big gap in preventative care,” Dr. Wurzbacher says. “Besides missing your annual pelvic exam, which is very important for early diagnosis for many gynecologic conditions, your doctor fails to learn about other changes to your health that might help in detecting other problems or prompt an adjustment to your own preventative care schedule.”
Dr. Wurzbacher also suggests that in addition to their annual OB-GYN examination, it’s important for women to also continue to receive an annual physical from their primary care provider and adhere to general preventative care recommendations.
“Primary care providers cover items that we don’t, such as tracking certain vitals and keeping you up-to-date on vaccinations that are recommended to everybody,” she says. “They can also answer questions about your preventative care and guide you toward the right specialists should the need arise for any reason.”
Dr. Wurzbacher advises, however, that the most important part of your care team is you.
“Ultimately, we like to empower women to be their own advocates and stay on top of their own care,” she says. “It’s up to you to follow through on setting and adhering to your care schedule, with the guidance from your doctors. It’s also up to you to listen to what your body is telling you. If something feels “off” call your doctor and discuss it, no matter how minor you think it might be.”