A doctor explains why yearly checkups are important, from Harvard Women's Health Watch

Even women who are healthy need regular preventive services like breast exams, Pap tests, immunizations, and (starting at age 50) fecal occult blood testing, along with periodic measurements of weight, height, and blood pressure. "Well woman visits" are the perfect time to accomplish these things — as well as to create good relationships between doctors and patients, reports the May 2007 issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch.

Well Woman Exam

A yearly checkup is also an opportunity to reassess a woman's risk for various conditions. Family history, lifestyle, and other factors may change from year to year and affect a woman's risk profile.

"Seeing a patient for a periodic health exam gives me a chance to check in with her about new health concerns, and to learn about what worries her. I help validate or assuage her concerns, and we can address them together," says Dr. Celeste Robb-Nicholson, Harvard Women's Health Watch editor in chief. A periodic review of what's going on in a woman's life—her family, work, activities, stresses, and joys — helps doctor and patient collaborate on health care decisions. This may mean finding the best times to take medications or figuring out how to fit in exercise. The visits also help build a strong patient-doctor relationship, which is invaluable when serious health problems arise.

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