Ask the Doctor
A checklist for women: keeping yourself healthy
Do I really need to see my doctor every year?
Yes. Many women only see their doctors when they are sick or injured, forming a negative connotation with doctor visits. Routine visits with your healthcare provider are imperative in helping prevent and recognize disease early when it may be easier to treat, identify health issues, establish wellness goals and build a relationship with your physician.
Is an annual physical the same as a well-woman visit?
All women need a general health check each year. This checkup is often referred to as an annual physical. You should also have a well-woman visit each year. This is an additional checkup that focuses on the female reproductive system and sexual health. Well-woman visits don't replace routine health checkups, but your doctor often can do both checkups at the same time. Some women decide to see a gynecologist for their well-woman visits. Most insurance plans cover both visits.
The following checklist should be covered at either your annual checkup or your well-woman visit:
- Medical history
- Family health history
- Relationships and sexual partners
- Eating habits and physical activity
- Use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs
- Mental health history, including depression
- Measurement of your height and weight
- Calculation of your body mass index (BMI)
- Measurement of your blood pressure
- Performance of a breast exam (feeling your breasts and under your arms for lumps or other changes)
- Performance of a Pap test and pelvic exam
- Discussion of health topics relevant to your age and risk factors
- Determination of screenings and follow-up services that are right for you
- Creation of health goals through a written wellness plan
What is covered by insurance?
Due to the healthcare reform act, known as The Affordable Care Act, annual physicals and well-woman visits are typically covered (including no copays) under most insurance plans. Several preventive screenings are also covered, including breast cancer mammography screenings and cervical cancer screenings, so check your insurance plan. This is true even if you haven't met your yearly deductible.
Make the most of your annual visit
Keep track of your personal health record, including a comprehensive family health history. Make a list of questions to ask your doctor during your visit. Make sure to discuss any screenings you may need and schedule recommended specialist or follow-up appointments right away so you don't forget and can stay on track.
Don't have a primary care physician or gynecologist?
Sources: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services