Over 40? Listen up
While paper gowns aren’t exactly cute, knowing the right time to throw one on is important for any woman over 40, especially since expert recommendations vary and evolve with new research. For starters, “we need to get away from thinking that a complete physical every year will take care of everything,” says Dr. Karen Buhler, MD, who is currently the Head of the Department of Family Practice at BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre in Vancouver. Instead, Buhler recommends focused physical exams that take your personal and family health history into account and may consists of targeted blood work, Pap test, blood pressure check-ups and screening for diseases like osteoporosis and cancer, depending on your age and medical history. The most important thing to keep in mind is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to your health.
Controversy surrounding certain screenings still sparks heated debate in the medical community, particularly in the case of mammography for women under 50. A 2011 recommendation by the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care advised clinicians and policy-makers against screening with mammograms for all women aged 40 to 49 due to the potential for over-diagnosis that may lead to additional imaging, biopsies and unnecessary radiation, stress and expense. The Task Force also recommended that women between 50 and 74 receive mammograms every two to three years, rather than annually. These recommendations have faced scrutiny from radiologists who cite medical studies linking screening to reduced breast cancer deaths.
Your best bet? Speak to your doctor directly about the best preventive health screenings for your age and medical history.
Buhler also suggests taking a peek at the Preventive Care Checklist Form created by The College of Family Physicians of Canada (available at here). “I find it really helpful,” she says. “If women had their own copy, it would help them get the care they need and focus on prevention and health maintenance.”