You and Your Doctor

For optimal women’s health we should all find the right health professionals that we feel comfortable with and trust. Your health professionals should listen to your questions, address your concerns and provide clear recommendations.

It is important you have regular check-ups with your doctor (GP) to detect early warning signs of many common illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers. See below for more information about what is recommended based on your age. Many factors can affect your risk of disease including age, menopausal status, family history and body weight, having a GP who can assess you for these factors is important.

Your GP can assist you with regular checkups and relevant screening. They can also assist you with lifestyle factors such as weight management and giving up smoking. Do not hesitate to see your GP if you notice any changes in your body that are not normal for you.

In addition, to regular GP check ups there are many self checks that we can do at home to improve and maintain our health such as: skin checks; dental care; have a healthy diet and healthy body weight; alcohol consumption at a low level; quit smoking; perform regular exercise and look after our mental health. For more information on lifestyle factors that impact your health and ways to make positive changes see Lifestyle Factors.

You have a choice

If you are unhappy with your healthcare professional or who you have been referred to, it’s a good idea to seek a second opinion. When looking for a healthcare professional or specialist, word of mouth goes a long way.

As a women, it is important you visit your GP at least once every two years for regular health checks. Below is a list of what your GP may ask you to relevant to your age and are endorsed by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

Women in their 20’s and 30’s

Visit your GP every two years to:

  • Check your Body Mass Index. Your BMI is a measure of your body fat based on your height and weight. Your GP may ask you about the number of portions of fruits and vegetables you eat per day and your salt and saturated fat intake.
  • Have a Pap Smear. All women who have ever been sexually active should start having Pap tests between the age of 18 – 20 years or 1 -2 years after first having sex. Your GP may talk to you about chlamydia testing.
  • Check you’ve had your HPV – (human papillomavirus vaccine). Genital HPV is a very common sexually transmitted infection which usually causes no symptoms and goes away by itself, but can sometimes cause serious illness. The vaccine should be given prior to onset of sexual activity, as it has no effect on already acquired HPV infections and is part of a national immunisation program for girls in Year 7.
  • Review your lifestyle, mental health, alcohol consumption, weight, nutrition and exercise habits.
  • Check your blood pressure.
  • Check for skin cancer.
  • Breast awareness and care. While mammography is not recommended for this age group of women, it is recommended that you be aware of how your breasts normally look and feel, and quickly report any new or unusual changes (such as a lump, nipple changes, nipple discharge, change in skin colour, or pain in a breast) to your GP.

Women aged in their 40’s

Visit your GP every two years to:

  • Check your Body Mass Index. Your BMI is a measure of your body fat based on your height and weight. Your GP may ask you about the number of portions of fruits and vegetables you eat per day and your salt and saturated fat intake.
  • Have a Pap Smear (female).
  • Have a mammogram, women 40+ are eligible for a free mammogram through Breastscreen Australia, www.breastscreen.org.au, every 2 years.
  • Learn about breast self-checks – it’s really important to be aware of how your breasts normally look and feel, and quickly report any new or unusual changes (such as a lump, nipple changes, nipple discharge, change in skin colour, or pain in a breast) to your GP.
  • Review your lifestyle, mental health, alcohol consumption, weight and nutrition and exercise habits.
  • Check your blood pressure, cholesterol, kidney function and vitamin D levels.
  • Check for skin cancers and diabetes.

Women aged in their 50’s+

Visit your GP every two years to:

  • Check your Body Mass Index. Your BMI is a measure of your body fat based on your height and weight. Your GP may ask you about the number of portions of fruits and vegetables you eat per day and your salt and saturated fat intake.
  • Have a Pap Smear, mammogram (female) and check for menopausal status.
  • Women aged 50 – 74 years of age will be sent an invitation/reminder for a free mammogram through Breastscreen Australia, www.breastscreen.org.au, every 2 years.
  • Breast self-checks – it’s really important to be aware of how your breasts normally look and feel, and quickly report any new or unusual changes (such as a lump, nipple changes, nipple discharge, change in skin colour, or pain in a breast) to your GP.
  • Have screening for bowel cancer – FOBT (both male and female).
  • Review your lifestyle, mental health, alcohol consumption, weight, nutrition and exercise habits.
  • Check your blood pressure, cholesterol, kidney function, Vitamin D level, thyroid and liver function.
  • Check for skin cancers, diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease risk factors and osteoarthritis.

I have always been quite aware of my body and try to be on top of my health. I would undertake monthly breast examinations in the shower which is where I found a lump in my right breast about the size of a pea. I went to my GP and the result was breast cancer, even though I was only 25. – Emma

Your GP can assist you with regular checkups and relevant screening. They can also assist you with lifestyle factors such as weight management and giving up smoking. Do not hesitate to see your GP if you notice any changes in your body that are not normal for you.

Further Information
Summary of recommendations taken from Guidelines for Preventive Activities in General Practice 8th Edition and NHMRC Dietary Guidelines for Australian Adults and Heart Foundation Guidelines.

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