How to Prep for An Annual Doctor’s Exam (Even When You’re Active and Healthy)

How to Prep for An Annual Doctor’s Exam (Even When You’re Active and Healthy)

If you’re the type of person who sticks to a resolution to eat healthier (and knocks out Stridekick challenges on a regular basis), you might be giving yourself permission to pass on an annual well woman exam.

In reality, going to your doctor or other healthcare provider once a year is one of the most important actions you can take for your health. Even when you’re healthy, you should be setting a baseline for what “healthy” feels like with a health professional. It’s also a time built for asking questions in order to better understand your body. And, at least through 2017, all annual well woman exams are covered by insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

Before Your Annual Doctor’s Exam

If you don’t have an established health provider, you can use apps like ZocDoc, BetterDoctor, or Amino to find one that fits best with your insurance and schedule. At the end of the day, it should be someone you trust and takes time to answer any questions you might have.

Many people put off scheduling their preventive appointments until later in the year, but scheduling your appointment early on will help avoid lag time and give you more options to choose from.  June 13th is National Call Your Doctor Day – a perfect time for this!

Bright Pink also recommends taking a health assessment quiz ahead of your appointment like AssessYourRisk.org. This is a 19-question quiz designed to provide you with a baseline assessment of your risk for breast and ovarian cancer. It asks questions about your family health history, personal health history, and lifestyle, to deliver you with a comprehensive report that you can print and bring to your appointment.

In addition, keep track of any changes in your body, specifically in your breasts, or changes to your menstrual cycle or digestive system. If anything has persisted for longer than 2 weeks, bring this to your doctor’s attention.

Last but not least, always bring any questions you have about your health. Now is the perfect time to ask and build a strong relationship with your health provider so that together, you can develop a plan to manage your risk for cancer and other disease.

What to Expect at Your Appointment

A well woman exam should include a clinical breast exam, where your healthcare provider will feel your breasts with their hands. It should be thorough, cover all the breast tissue, and typically last several minutes. If your doctor offers this exam, say yes—and if your doctor doesn’t bring it up, make sure you do.

Your provider will also perform a pelvic exam where he or she will actually feel your ovaries to see if there is anything abnormal. During your pelvic exam, you may also receive a pap smear. It’s important to note that a pap smear checks for cervical cancer – not ovarian cancer. And with recent changes in pap smear guidelines, you may only receive a pap smear every few years, however it is still so important that you visit your provider every year for the pelvic exam as it relates to your ovarian health. Again, pap smears happen every couple years. Pelvic exams should happen every year.

There has been a lot of confusion over what age to start mammograms. At Bright Pink, we align with the majority of cancer organizations and medical professional societies that recommend women begin mammograms at age 40. If you have a first-degree relative who was diagnosed with breast cancer, you should talk to your provider about scheduling a mammogram when you are 10 years younger than the age at which your relative was diagnosed. For example, if your mom was diagnosed with breast cancer at 35, you should talk with your doctor about screening at 25.

Now you’re ready to schedule your appointment.  Let Bright Pink help hold you accountable – RSVP and say you’ll call your doctor on June 13th by visiting CallYourDoctorDay.org (and take advantage of some of the freebies that come along with this) and don’t forget to join the challenge!

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Bright Pink

Bright Pink is a national non-profit focused on the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women. The organization’s mission is to save women’s lives from breast and ovarian cancer by empowering them to live proactively at a young age.

Bright Pink’s innovative programs educate and equip young women to assess their risk for breast and ovarian cancer, reduce their risk, and detect these diseases at early, non life-threatening stages.Put Awareness In Action™ at BrightPink.org.
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