Why Well-Woman Exams are Important for College-Age
Ah, summer. So fun, yet so fleeting. By the time your tan is top-notch it’s time to start considering all the steps you’ll need to make this fall the best school year ever.
For women returning to the bustle of another year at college, now’s the time to make a well-woman exam appointment with your family doctor. The unique nature of these visits – and the fact they are quite often included as part of health care insurance – make them a “don’t miss” early autumn activity.
“It’s really a conversation as well as a medical exam, and for women who have not had one in a while, we really encourage them to come to us ready for that conversation,” said Kirsten Stotz, DO, an Avera Medical Group family medicine physician. “We review history and talk about recent health visits, too, everything from a trip to the ER to the dentist. Most women realize the value of the visits – and we just hope to remind more women of this feature in their coverage – and of its importance.”
Stotz said for many women in their late teens or early 20s, a significant part of this conversational exam will focus on topics such as healthy diet and exercise, as well as lifestyle.
“We talk about sexual health, alcohol and drug misuse,” she said. “It’s also a good time to talk about how to avoid some of the bad health habits that can come at this age, such smoking – or how to stop smoking if you have started.”
The exam itself often will include some lab work and if needed, medical imaging. Stotz said it’s better to detect problems, or even potential problems, earlier versus later.
“It’s a lot like a Pap test – always best to have those regularly so that physicians can be in the know on your health. Awareness of potential issues is key,” said Stotz. “In this age in which we live, there’s a lot of misinformation online. A well-woman visit can be a great place to re-educate patients and clarify things they may have read or heard using real evidence-based medical science.”
The exam itself is usually less than an hour, and includes a variety of screenings that cover physical as well as mental health. Stotz said that being honest with your physician allows you to make the most of the well-woman visit – that way he or she can be your advocate and ally in the best possible health.
“A well-woman visit is an important overall aspect to holistic care, and gives your doctor a chance to assess possible risks, answer your questions with factual information and to head off things before you get busy back at school,” she said. “Whether you’re off for your first year or going back to finish your last year, make sure you schedule your well-woman exam and make the most of it.”