By Sue Morgan, ARNP
Are you one of the many thousands of women for whom a well woman exam is only an annual Pap smear and a manual breast exam? Then read on…
How many times have you looked at your calendar and experienced that sinking feeling when you realize it’s time for your annual Well Woman Exam? And how relieved are you when it’s all over and your practitioner has said your results are fine. That means you’re in good health, right? Your breasts and reproductive organs have checked out fine, so it’s no more worries for another year. Phew.
But what about your low energy? And all those extra pounds you’ve gained over the past few months? Maybe it’s a thyroid problem – hasn’t your Mom got that? And cancer is becoming a concern since it runs in the family. What should you do about that? Maybe your choice of birth control no longer suits you, but you haven’t got time to find out what’s new on the market. Could you be entering menopause? Your cycle is fluctuating and your moods are up and down. Is it time to have your bone health checked?
But you’ve just had your Well Woman and everything is OK. And you don’t want another trip to your healthcare provider just because you have a few aches and pains or worries about your family health history. So let’s just wait and see what happens and deal with these issues as, and when, they present a serious problem.
Stop right there!
A Well Woman Exam should be exactly what the name suggests. Whether you are having your very first Well Woman exam or your 30th, it should be an opportunity to ask any questions about issues which may be causing you concern, from fertility to cancer signs to inherited disorders. It should provide you with an annual report on your overall state of health, and not just give the “ok” to your breasts and reproductive organs.
All too often, a Well Woman Exam only includes manual breast exam, a Pap test and a pelvic exam. Typically, the patient’s vitals (blood pressure, weight, temperature etc) will be checked and some practitioners may also order a mammogram. Those tests all provide very worthwhile data but how complete is the typical Well Woman Exam in presenting the true picture of a woman’s overall health?
Peace of Mind
At LifeWorks Wellness Center, the annual Well Woman exam is tailored for each person depending on her stage of life and her symptoms. We want to make sure that each of the delicate structures in the female body is working normally, and that no nutritional deficiency, infection or environmental toxicity is having an adverse effect. It is also the chance for you to discuss any fears or worries you may have about serious illness like cancer or diabetes or other issues like weight gain or low energy. During the Well Woman exam our goal is to thoroughly test your body and its functions, so that you can have peace of mind knowing it is in an optimum condition.
What to Expect In Your Well Woman Exam
Each Well Woman exam at LifeWorks includes a comprehensive list of tests designed to detect and predict conditions. With the current economic climate, preventing future problems is a key goal.
Before meeting with the advanced registered nurse practitioner, you will be asked to complete a brief Chronic Ailment Assessment Booklet (or CAAB survey) which asks questions about your health. This will then be reviewed during your appointment, and will provide the practitioner with an overall picture of your health including areas that may need to be addressed.
You will be encouraged to ask questions about issues which may be troubling you, even if they appear insignificant. Identifying a minor issue which may have the potential to develop into a serious illness, is what the LifeWorks’ Well Woman Exam is designed to do.
The LifeWorks Well Woman Exam addresses the whole body and the nurse practitioner will perform a thorough examination including a number of simple, non-invasive tests which provide on-the-spot results and give a good picture of your overall health.
Lab tests will be ordered to provide detailed data on your body chemistry such as thyroid function, cholesterol levels, bone health and more if required..
Pap smear – Cancer can develop in the cervix. A pap smear is a sample of cells from the cervix to screen for cancer. Most cervical cancers grow very slowly and can be treated successfully if they are found early. It is therefore important that women have annual pap smears if 21 years or older, or if under 21 years old and sexually active for 3 years or more.
Some women mistakenly believe that they no longer need pap smears after menopause; however women are still at risk for cervical cancer after menstrual periods stop. Women over age 60 account for more than 40% of deaths from cervical cancer in the United States. An annual pelvic exam is still needed even if the uterus and both ovaries have been removed, to detect pre-cancers in the vagina and any remaining cervical tissues
Thermography – Since one woman in eight will be a victim of breast cancer monitoring breast health is vital. The nurse practitioner will order a thermogram, a non-invasive, painless procedure which has no radiation exposure and which provides the earliest breast cancer detection available. Thermography can detect problems in the breast years before they appear on a mammogram. At this stage any abnormality can be corrected before it become serious.
Become a Well Woman At LifeWorks
Many female patients who come to LifeWorks for their Well Woman exam have unsolved symptoms at which other practitioners have just thrown up their hands. Too often patients have been told “you’ll just have to live with it” or “there’s nothing wrong with you. It’s all in your head”. At LifeWorks, we know that underlying your symptoms there is a discoverable cause and a solution. Beginning with the Well Woman exam, your nurse practitioner will work with you to get you feeling better and back to enjoying life using the best of traditional and alternative approaches.
Sue Morgan is an ARNP (Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner) with a special focus on women’s health. Sue performs the Well Woman exams at LifeWorks; guiding female patients from puberty to post-menopause and helping them make informed choices about their individual requirements.
“When I relocated to Florida and needed a Well Woman exam, a colleague recommended LifeWorks. I was genuinely surprised and shocked at how much health detail the session with Sue Morgan covered, and I had tests performed that I never even knew existed! Sue took time to explain what each test was for and why it was important. When my results came back there were certain areas that needed improvement with supplementation, but I was greatly relieved that the issues were found before they became debilitating. I will never go anywhere else for my Well Woman exam!”*
“I have gone to LifeWorks for my Well Woman Exam for a number of years and when my daughter entered her early 20s, I suggested she go there too. My first Pap test as a young girl was horrific, but Sue Morgan made my daughter’s first “female” exam a reassuring and positive experience. She was also able to answer my daughter’s questions in a way I never could. There should be more places like LifeWorks.”
“I was reviewing my test results with Sue and she happened to mention how important it is for post-menopausal women to keep up with their annual exams. I immediately thought of my Mom. She had wrongly been told that since she was in her 60s and no longer sexually active, she didn’t need to worry about Paps etc. I made her an appointment that day and was glad I did. Her tests showed that she is a very healthy woman except for one area – she is losing bone at a rapid rate and heading into full-blown osteoporosis. She is now on natural supplementation and getting re-checked every 3-4 months. Thank goodness we are seeing an improvement in her condition, but I dread to think what would have happened without the test.”*