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Monday Medical: Remember to take care of yourself

Monday Medical

Editor’s note: This article is the second in a two-part series on health for moms, running for Mother's Day.

Most moms find the time for the annual well checks recommended for their kids.

Making time for their own regular checkups, however, can be another story.

"We may see a patient during OB care, then, all of a sudden, a few years go by, and we haven't seen her," said Dr. David Schaller, OB-GYN with YampaCare for Women.

But regular doctor's visits are a key part of a healthy lifestyle for all women.

"It's important to take care of your routine health," Schaller said. "If you can detect things prior to them transpiring or early on in the process, you have a better chance to intervene."

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Following, Schaller outlines a few key benefits of regular checkups.

Keeping tabs on overall health: During a doctor's visit, measurements such as blood pressure and weight are taken, and questions related to lifestyle, exercise and depression are often covered.

That information can help a doctor identify possible issues, from heart disease to diabetes, and make recommendations for improving overall health.

"When we monitor people, we monitor their weight, their blood pressure, any concerns they might have: depression, lifestyle, exercise," Schaller said. "It helps us get a general view of their overall health."

A regular visit is also a good time to bring up any health concerns, and if a woman is interested, to review options for contraception.

"We don't want a patient to come in just for a quick screening," Schaller said. "We want to spend enough time so we may fully address her unique issues."

Screening for cervical cancer: Current national guidelines suggest most women should be screened for cervical cancer every three years. Yearly screens used to be the norm, but because cervical cancer can be slow to develop, the recommended time between screens was lengthened.

Regular screenings are critical, as cervical cancer can be impossible to detect early otherwise. And, if it starts to spread, it can quickly impact the bladder, the rectum, the uterus and more.

"Because of where the cervix resides, typical cycles and decreased density of nerve fibers, women often don't have symptoms of cervical cancer," Schaller said. "The benefit of Pap smears is they help detect something before it becomes a cancer, so we can intervene, if indicated."

Screening for breast cancer: Regular mammograms are recommended for women beginning at age 40, or sooner for higher risk women.

Schaller emphasized that concerns of getting a false positive, or a result that suggests cancer is present when it actually is not, should not keep women from getting a mammogram.

"When people do screening mammograms every year, about 10 percent over a 10 year timespan will suggest suspicious findings. And that does create anxiety," Schaller said. "But, you can't tell what you have unless you look, and sometimes, a definitive biopsy may be recommended"

When breast cancer is discovered early, it can often be treated successfully.

"If you detect breast cancer at age 42, there are a lot of years that can potentially be saved of that person's life," Schaller said.

Schaller encourages all women to give themselves a gift this Mother's Day by making time for a regular checkup.

"Historically, women's health was on the back burner," Schaller said. "Women oftentimes would die from heart disease, because no one ever talked about it, and their symptoms can differ from those of males.

"It's important for women to take care of themselves, so they can live as long and healthy of a life as possible."

Susan Cunningham writes for Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at cunninghamsbc@gmail.com.