Over the past few years, many women have put scheduling routine preventive screenings and exams on hold—and some of the impacts are now being seen. For example, one study in California found that the number of diagnosed patients who presented with Stage 1 breast cancer dropped from about 64% in 2019 to 51% in 2020 (1). Health experts believe this could be due to a decline in mammogram screenings, which often lead to early detection, treatment, and better health outcomes. One way to help detect serious health issues when they may be most treatable is to schedule an annual well-woman exam.
What to Expect
During a well-woman exam, a clinician will assess overall health, provide education and counseling to help inform health decisions, and discuss setting wellness goals. This may include checking blood pressure, screening for healthy weight, providing immunizations, and discussing a variety of preventive screenings and exams depending on age, family history, and health background. This is also an opportunity to ask any other health-related questions.
What to Discuss
To help prevent or detect health issues early on, Sutter Health Plus covers a variety of preventive care exams and health screenings based on U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations at no cost share for members when provided by a network provider. See our health maintenance guidelines for the latest USPSTF recommendations for people of all ages.
Blood Pressure – When unmanaged, high blood pressure can lead to a variety of health issues like heart attack and stroke (2). Screening is recommended for adults every three to five years or annually for those with risk factors starting at age 18, and annually beginning at age 40.
Breast Cancer – Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the U.S. behind skin cancer (3). A mammogram can help detect breast cancer in its earliest stages when it is most treatable and should be scheduled every two years beginning age 50 for those at average risk.
Diabetes – More than one in three adults in the U.S. have prediabetes, and of those, more than 80% don’t know it (4). It may be possible to prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems. For those age 35 and over and overweight, a blood glucose screening is recommended.
Cervical Cancer – A Pap test can find abnormal cervical cells, which a clinician may be able to treat before cancer develops. Additionally, an HPV test can detect HPV infections that may cause cell abnormalities.
Cholesterol – A cholesterol screening can help identify risk for heart disease and stroke and is recommended every five years starting at age 40.
Colorectal Cancer – Up to 60% of colon cancer deaths may be prevented with screening (5). USPSTF generally recommends screening for colorectal cancer starting at age 45.
Mental Health – Caring for mental health is important for overall wellness. Those feeling overwhelmed, struggling with substance use, or just needing to talk can discuss support options with a provider. When ready, members may self-refer to a participating behavioral health provider for confidential, in-person, or virtual visits through U.S. Behavioral Health Plan, California (USBHPC). Learn more at liveandworkwell.com or call USBHPC at 855-202-0984.
Preconception Health – Beneficial for both women and men, preconception health care can help promote general health and improve future likelihood of having a healthy baby for those who feel ready. This may include physical assessments, risk screenings, immunizations (including the HPV vaccine), and counseling.
Scheduling an Exam
Members can book a well-woman exam by contacting their PCP or through the My Health Online app or portal at mho.sutterhealth.org. Learn more about preventive care services for members at sutterhealthplus.org/members/preventive-care.