Hannibal Regional News

Hannibal Regional Healthcare System News Archive

Well-Woman Visits and Why they Matter Bookmark

Well-woman visits are designed to promote health over the course of a woman’s lifetime and to establish a long-term, trusting relationship with your provider.  They are an opportunity to regularly review your medical history and evaluate your current health through various screenings, including a breast exam, mammogram or pelvic exam. 

Breast Examination
“During your well woman exam, we will do a clinical breast exam.  We will also discuss family history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer or other hereditary breast and ovarian syndrome associated cancers such as prostate cancer, and pancreatic cancer as well as assess your individual risk factors,” says Dr. Jennifer Roberts, OB/GYN at Hannibal Regional Medical Group.  Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women in the United States and is the second leading cause of cancer death in American women.  Regular screening for the average risk woman with yearly mammography starts at the age of 40 years and is related to a reduced risk of cancer death in that population.  It is continued until at least the age of 75 years however age is not the sole determining factor to continue or discontinue screening.  “We encourage breast self-awareness which is a woman's awareness of the normal appearance and feel of her breasts without repetitive, regular exams with the goal of detecting breast cancer.  It is important to notify your OB/GYN if you feel or see any changes in the breast, nipple, or skin,” says Dr. Roberts. 

Emotional Well-Being
“We will also discuss your emotional well-being during a well-woman visit,” notes Dr. Roberts.  Guidelines have changed over the years and it is now recommended to begin screening for anxiety starting at age 13.  The postpartum period is also a very high risk time for new onset or underlying depression or anxiety to become a significant problem. Most commonly women are seen at 6 weeks postpartum, however if your anxiety/depression are increasing you will need to be seen sooner.  “We encourage you to contact your OB/GYN or primary care physician if you experience worsening anxiety or depression or to go immediately to the emergency room if you have thoughts of hurting yourself or others,” says Dr. Roberts.

Pap Smear
You should consult with your physician on the best recommended schedule for this test. The timing of your Pap smear will depend on your age, health and medical history. It is recommended you get your first Pap smear at age 21 and is an important screening tool for cervical cancer.  “In the United States, cervical cancer has decreased more than 50% in the last 30 years because of widespread screening, which is also drastically decreased the number of deaths due to cervical cancer. Most cases of cervical cancer occur in women who were either never screened or were screened inadequately,” says Dr. Roberts.

Open Conversation
“A well woman visit does not consist solely of a pap smear or breast exam.  These visits are an opportunity for women to have open conversations with their physicians and learn helpful information about their bodies and anatomy,” says Dr. Roberts.  Well-woman visits can lead to the early detection of issues ranging from benign conditions like pelvic support and pain to sexually transmitted infection; ovarian, cervical, vaginal, skin and breast cancers; fibroids and more.

Navigating the complexity of your health can be difficult and stressful and you are not alone.  The Women’s Health specialists at Hannibal Regional Medical Group are readily available to answer your questions and take care of you.  Dr. Jennifer Roberts joined the Women’s Health Group in 2019 and specializes in OMT in pregnancy, post-partum and pelvic pain as well as minimally invasive gynecologic procedures, and is the medical director of the robotics program.  Dr. Roberts is accepting new patients, please call (573) 629-3500 for an appointment.

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