WHEELING - From the possibilities of cervical cancer to osteoporosis, women face numerous health challenges as they progress through life.
According to Dr. James Comerci, program director for the Family Medicine Residency Program at Wheeling Hospital, it is best for women to establish a customized health maintenance plan as early as their adolescent years.
"Parents usually take their children to the doctor regularly, but sometimes they do not focus on it enough once those children reach adolescence," he said.
Dr. James Comerci, program director for the Family Medicine Residency Program at Wheeling Hospital, reviews some documents with nurse Cynthia Yahn.
Photo by Casey Junkins
"Women need to meet with their primary care physician's every year. They need to develop a health maintenance plan."
In formulating an individual plan, Comerci said women and their physicians will discuss allergies, immunizations, family history, health habits, environmental factors and other important matters that may impact their health.
The general screening guidelines for the three main health issues specific to women are as follows:
-? About age 40 - mammogram and breast exam
- Comerci said those who are considered to be at a high risk for a particular disease, based on their customized plan and information, may need to be screened at earlier ages.
The pap smear and gynecological exam screens for the HPV, or human papilloma virus, which can lead to cervical cancer or other cancers, according to Comerci. Those who are found to be at relatively low risk of developing the disease should be screened at one- to two-year intervals following the initial exam.
As for the mammogram and breast examination for breast cancer, Comerci said these procedures involve both an X-ray and a physical examination.
The tests should take place annually, though he said several consecutive negative tests could reduce this to every two or three years.
Comerci said women need to have a bone density exam around age 50 to determine risk for osteoporosis. This disease also can affect men, but women are generally at higher risk because, Comerci said, they begin to lose hormones as they age.
Comerci emphasized women need to be aware of health problems that also can affect men, such as heart disease, diabetes and various forms of cancer.
"There are problems that all of us can face, regardless of whether we are men or women," he noted.