Many women that I see in my Pensacola OBGYN practice are constantly on the go. Between family, children and work engagements, many of my patients say it’s often hard to keep track of their own health. I encourage my patients to make the time and take charge of their health.

What does it mean to take charge of your health? Taking charge simply means being familiar with your health and being a partner with your doctor, so that you can make healthy choices. It is good for women to be educated of what is normal for them and to be aware of risk factors and visit their doctor for routine health screenings. Screenings are essential for women’s health so potential problems can be spotted early.

Here are a list of important health screenings for women. Be sure to ask your doctor about these screenings.

Pelvic Exams and Pap Smears – Beginning at age 21 and earlier if you are sexually active, women should have a Pap Smear and pelvic exam every two years. Guidelines for this cervical cancer screening recently changed from once a year, as studies found no benefit to such frequent screenings. Women age 30 and older only need a Pap smear every three years if they have had three normal tests in a row and there are no existing problems or symptoms.

Mammograms and Breast Exams – Today, the best method of early detection is a three-pronged approach: annual mammograms for women starting at age 40; clinical breast exams by a health care professional annually for women age 40 or older, every three years for women in their 20s and 30s and breast self-examinations for women starting in their 20s. If you are 40 or older, mammograms are extremely important, because they can detect abnormalities in the breast several years before you or your doctor can feel a lump. Bottom line, women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast changes promptly to their doctor. Women should not skip mammograms. Early detection gives women more treatment choices and greater chances for recovery.

Bone Density Screening – Starting at the age of 65, women should start getting screened for osteoporosis with a bone density test. Women who have gone through early menopause or are taking certain medications may need to also start screening before 65 and younger women whose fracture risk is greater should talk to their doctor about early screening. Risk factors for osteoporosis include having a slender frame or a fractured bone.

Women should also talk to their doctor about these important health screenings and check-ups:

  • Blood pressure screening
  • Cholesterol check
  • Blood glucose testing
  • Colon cancer screening
  • Body mass index
  • Skin examination
  • Dental check-up

Many of these tests are covered by insurance plans because they are considered preventive. However, you will need to check with your provider as there may be specific criteria that you need to meet. This criteria could include a reason for the test, timing, your age and your insurance.