Getting an annual wellness check gives you piece of mind that cancer is not lurking or heart disease isn’t creeping up on you. Some people take the stance that if something’s wrong they would rather not know about it. The problem is that if something is wrong and it’s ignored, it only gets worse and has more serious consequences. Take diabetes, for instance. By catching it early, you can lead a more fulfilling life by avoiding vision loss, foot damage and nerve damage, among other issues.
By getting simple preventive screenings regularly, namely mammograms and Pap smears, you’ll likely avoid advanced breast and cervical cancer in your lifetime. Now, that’s worth a few hours of your time once a year or so.
Prowers Medical Center recommends a mammogram for all women ages 40 and older. The clinical recommendation for receiving Pap smears is every 3 years for women age 21 to 65. If you have a family history of cervical cancer, talk with your doctor about having a Pap smear more frequently. If you test positive for human papillomavirus (HPV)—a leading contributor to cervical cancer—you’ll be asked to have more frequent screens.
“As women grow older, their risk for cervical cancer goes down, but their risk for breast cancer goes up,” said Renee Weakley, FNP-C, Family Nurse Practitioner with Prowers Medical Center Clinic.
When caught early, breast cancer is often curable. That’s why it’s vital women stay consistent with wellness checks and mammograms. It’s also a good idea to do self breast exams, because you know your breasts best and are able to identify changes and lumps.
“If you go several years without a mammogram and we find a large lump, it will likely be more serious,” Weakley added.
Many experts contribute the marked decline in cervical cancer rates nationally to women getting regular Pap smears. Like breast cancer, cervical cancer is more successfully treated when caught early.
Besides cancers, well women checks help keep the effects of other diseases to a minimum, including heart disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, because of low levels of estrogen in menopause, older women are at a significant higher risk for developing heart disease. Heart disease and stroke are the cause of one in three deaths among women every year.
“If you are regularly getting wellness checks, we’re able to notice changes in your blood pressure and cholesterol, and we can treat you early before heart disease sets in,” Weakley said.
By getting an annual wellness check and labs, you provide valuable information to your medical provider who compares your labs to past years and identifies any changes. Getting on medication for high blood pressure or cholesterol can curb your risk for problems down the road.
Did you know that a healthy, whole foods diet and regular exercise decreases your risk for breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases? Weakley recommends women shoot for 20 minutes of exercise each day, four days a week. She also recommends cutting down on carbohydrates like sugary drinks and baked goods, and increasing vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and lean meats in your diet.
“Women don’t tend to take care of themselves, they tend to take care of others first. But it’s really important that women get a wellness check every year,” Weakley concluded.
Women’s Services Available at Prowers Medical Center
family planning services
incontinence, all types
infusions for bone density loss
labor and delivery, including high risk pregnancies
polycystic ovarian syndrome
prenatal care and screenings
screenings for STDs and other diseases