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Your health, your hands: What to ask your doctor at your annual check-up


As a woman, monitoring your health should be a top priority. Knowing what to do, say and ask at an annual check up is vital–it could even be life saving. There are many diseases associated with female organs that can be prevented, but, in many cases, only if caught early.

Preventative exams such as pap smears, pelvic exams and breast exams are a must at EVERY annual exam. Don’t let doctors tell you that if you aren’t having any problems, then exams aren’t necessary. My mother was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer in her early 20s and she battled this disease until her mid 30s when she passed away. My sister and I are now extra cautious, and we often times have to be extra stern with doctors. Ovarian cancer is a disease mainly found in older women, so when we tell them our family history, they sometimes shrug it off and mark my mother’s illness as an isolated case. Do not ever let a doctor do this to you–this is your health and you need to be in control of it.

Use the checklist below to make sure that your doctor is monitoring your health exactly as he or she should be:

1) Pap Smear: The pap smear is a very important screening exam that you should be having done regularly by the time you are in your 20s. The pap smear is able to test for pre-cancerous and cancerous cells in your cervix. With your pap smear it might be useful to talk with your doctor about HPV (Human Papillomavirus) and the measures that you can take in order to prevent it. HPV is a very common sexually transmitted disease that can usually be treated, but on the other hand if it goes untreated, it can develop into cervical cancer.

2) Pelvic Exam: The pelvic exam is done in order to ensure that certain organs in your body are healthy and functioning right. Through this exam, your doctor is able to check your vulva, uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder and rectum.

3) Clinical Breast Exam: The breast exam is used to check your breasts for breast cancer as well as other breast problems. If you have a lump or other abnormality on your breast, your doctor will be able to detect it through this exam. Make sure to notify your doctor if you have felt a lump yourself, detected a change in your breasts or felt pain in your breasts.

Other important issues to be noted at your annual check-up are skin checks, eye exams as well as blood pressure and cholesterol.

Although these examinations are extremely important to remember when going in for your annual check-up, the number one thing to remember to do when you go in is talk to your doctor. Your doctor has no way of knowing what is going on with your body unless you tell him or her. It is so, so important to relay any issue, even if it you think it is insignificant, to your doctor. Make a note of any changes that you notice in your body, mood, appetite, etc and make sure that your doctor knows about them. Remember that this is your health, your life and your wellbeing at stake. It is in your hands to make sure that you are doing everything you can to protect yourself.

 Photo Credit: Mary Elise Grassmuck

About the Author

Alison Spann

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