Preventive care is important for everyone, as it can detect diseases in their earliest, most treatable stages and help manage your health more proactively. Women’s preventive care needs are unique, as women need to prioritize screenings for cervical cancer, breast cancer, sexually-transmitted diseases, and bone density. Unfortunately, a recent survey has revealed that nearly half of American women forgo preventive screening services, leaving them more vulnerable to life-threatening diseases. Only three out of four women have received a cervical cancer screening in their lifetime, but women of color were much less likely to have ever had this screening. 65% of Black women, 66% of Asian women, and 68% of Hispanic women have had cervical cancer screenings at least once in their lifetimes compared to 81% of white women.
Which Preventive Screenings Do Women Need?
Cervical cancer screenings aren’t the only preventive health visits women need to think about. There are several care services women should have on their radar, including:
Cervical Cancer Screening – Cervical cancer screenings, which include pap tests and HPV tests, take place during a pelvic exam, and they should be performed at least once every 3 years for women between the ages of 21 and 30 and once every 5 years between the ages of 31 and 65. For women who have abnormal results, testing may need to occur more frequently. These screenings may be performed by your primary care physician or by an OBGYN.
Breast Exams – Women should perform breast self-exams regularly to look and feel for changes to the breast tissue like lumps, dimpling or rough skin, or changes to the nipple. Your doctor may also recommend clinical breast exams at your routine wellness visits. At the age of 40, you should begin scheduling mammograms, which take X-rays of the breast tissue to identify potentially cancerous growths.
Blood Pressure Screening – High blood pressure, or hypertension, is often referred to as a silent killer because it causes few noticeable symptoms but lead to significant health problems, including heart disease. Your healthcare provider will take your blood pressure at the start of any medical visit, and it’s important to note trends with your blood pressure over time. When high blood pressure is caught early, it is easily reversible with the right lifestyle changes, medications, and monitoring.
STI Screenings – STIs may not always cause outward symptoms, but they can have lasting effects like infertility, liver damage, and pelvic inflammatory disease. The need for STI screenings may vary depending on your lifestyle, but ideally, sexually active women will be tested once per year for infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV.
Bone Density Screenings – Women are at a much higher risk for osteoporosis than men, which is why physicians recommend bone density testing beginning at age 65. Bone density loss is irreversible, but identifying the issue early on allows for the most effective treatment to slow down bone loss.
Why Do Women Skip These Essential Medical Services?
Despite the importance of preventive medical screenings, a staggering number of women are skipping these medical services. There are several reasons for this trend with the most prominent being the inability to afford out-of-pocket costs. 72% of women are likely to get a cervical cancer screening if it is recommended by their provider, but only 34% are likely to get this screening if it is not covered by their insurance. Additionally, women face barriers to care with difficulty scheduling services, lack of a qualified provider nearby, or limited time to attend medical appointments. Awareness is also an important factor—many women are not informed of how often certain screenings should take place or at what age different screenings should begin.
How to Prioritize Your Care
If you have fallen behind with your preventive health screenings, there are solutions to help you get back on track without disrupting your schedule or breaking your household budget. Some health screenings may take place via telehealth visits, which offer more affordable costs along with convenient scheduling. Your health insurance provider may also connect you with a scheduling service to make appointments with providers in your network, so you can get the care you need.
For the care you need anytime, anywhere, contact Walmart Health Virtual Care. Schedule a visit through our convenient online platform today.