Women's health guide

Topic: Women’s health guide for every age: Preventive screenings you shouldn’t miss

How long has it been since your last doctor’s visit, dental checkup, eye exam or skin cancer screening?

For many women, the answer may be “circa 2019” — or before the coronavirus crisis forced Americans to put their lives on hold and skip routine health appointments. Even as clinics reopened, many families have been reluctant to leave their “bubbles.”

It’s a concern for doctors, who say the time to go is now. National Women’s Health Week, observed May 9-15, serves as a reminder for women and girls to take care of their health and well-being.

A telemedicine visit — perfected by medical staff during the lockdown — can be a start, but most physicians are back to seeing patients in person.

“People are starting to kind of wake up and understand that they have to schedule their preventative screening visits,” Dr. Mary Rosser, an OB-GYN and director of Integrated Women’s Health at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York, told TODAY.

“Women have been so focused on their families… and their own careers and jobs they’ve been taking care of during this pandemic. It’s really time to say, OK, please don’t forget to focus on yourself.”

Rosser was particularly concerned about women putting off mammograms. The director of the National Cancer Institute has predicted the number of people who’ll die from breast or colorectal cancer in the U.S. will rise by almost 10,000 over the next decade because of COVID-19’s disruption of screenings and treatment.

Other physicians were also worried about the toll skipped visits would have in the months to come.

“I have seen many patients coming to me with new dental disease that they didn’t have before the pandemic,” said Dr. Ruchi Sahota, a dentist in Fremont, California, and a spokesperson for the American Dental Association.

“If my patients aren’t coming in for their routine exams and cleanings, I am worried about them. I can’t help it.”

Here’s what women need to know about their preventive care, broken down by appointment type and age group:

Annual physical:

The once-a-year checkup has long been considered a standard of care, but there’s been debate over whether it’s really needed, especially for healthy adults under 50.

Prevention really works, said Dr. Nisa Maruthur, a primary care physician and associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, so she’s been concerned about the drop in preventive care since last year. Common chronic diseases that might be missed include high blood pressure and diabetes, which can be asymptomatic for a long time.

“Regular contacts with your primary care provider are extremely important,” she said. Check with your doctor to see whether you’re overdue for a visit and if you should come in person.

Routine blood tests and screenings can offer important clues about health and catch problems early.

Topic Discussed: Women’s health guide for every age: Preventive screenings you shouldn’t miss

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