Women take on a lot. Between jobs, children, partners, friends, pets, hobbies, homes, etc. it’s not unheard of for women to neglect their own health in favor of the million other things they have going on. Especially during COVID-19, with many women trying to balance child care duties with working from home and more. That’s why it’s so important to take the time to call your doctor or health care provider and schedule any overdue checkups, which you can do virtually from the comfort and safety of your home.
Wondering what checkups you should get and when? Here’s a breakdown of recommended health checks and when you should get them.
- Breast self-exam. You’ve probably heard this from your doctor, but here’s another reminder to perform a breast self-exam once a month to monitor for lumps, bumps or any changes.
- Skin self-exam. Many health care providers recommend checking for new or unusual moles and skin abnormalities once a month. If you spot anything suspicious, give your doctor or dermatologist a call to schedule a visit.
Every six months
- Dental checkup. See your dentist once every six months for cleanings to stay on top of your oral health. During COVID-19, check in with your dentist to see if there are any virtual options or extra precautions you can take as you’re waiting for your next cleaning appointment.
Once a year
- Full physical. Your annual checkup will usually include checking your height, weight, blood pressure and any blood tests your doctor recommends, like blood sugar and vitamin levels.
- Pelvic. You should get a pelvic exam once a year so your doctor can check your uterus and ovaries for any abnormalities, as well as check for cysts, fibroids and discuss any ongoing issues or concerns.
- Pap. The frequency of a pap smear can vary based on age and relationship status, but most health professionals still recommend women see their gynecologist once a year so they can determine the correct frequency for you.
- STD. This is a good idea to get done at your yearly pelvic exam regardless, but it’s especially important if you’ve changed sexual partners since your last visit. Your pap smear tests for chlamydia and gonorrhea, but you can also request a full panel that includes hepatitis b and c, syphilis and trichomoniasis. Talk to your doctor about your lifestyle so you can determine a testing schedule that best suits your needs.
- HIV. You can get this done annually at your doctor’s office, although most health clinics also offer this simple test, most often done via a blood draw or cheek swab.
- Vision. The American Optometric Association recommends you get an eye exam once every two years, but you should get one annually if you have ongoing vision problems, glasses or contacts. If you have vision coverage, be sure to maximize your benefits.
Later in life
- Mammogram. The American Cancer Society recommends women get regular mammograms starting around age 40 if they want, and strongly recommends all women get yearly mammograms after age 45 regardless of family history. Beginning at age 55, you can switch to every other year if there are no ongoing concerns.
- Colonoscopy. Talk to your doctor about regular colonoscopies starting around age 50. If you have a history of colon cancer in your family, your doctor may recommend you start getting tested earlier (the most common recommendation is starting screenings 10 years prior to the age your first-degree family member was diagnosed).
Check with your health insurance provider to see which screenings are covered under preventive care and make the time to add checkups to your busy calendar. Taking time for yourself—especially for something like health tests—is difficult when you have so many other balls in the air; but your health is important and you deserve to make it a top priority.