Primary Care & Women’s Health - by Courtney Bowen, MD


Dr. Courtney Bowen

Being female brings with it a unique set of healthcare concerns. Menstrual cycles begin in the early teen years; a Pap smear may be recommended as early as age 21; birth control methods should be discussed and managed, and of course, childbirth. While these issues are important to a woman’s health, for a complete and accurate assessment of overall well-being, they should be considered in conjunction with many other factors. The body is a complex system with each component linked to, and in many ways, dependent on the others. Factor in family history and an individual’s personal medical history, and each person’s plan of care becomes unique to say the least.


For these reasons, all females should visit their primary care physician at least once a year. Your PCP will conduct an annual exam that looks at vital signs (blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, respiration rate), as well as blood and urine samples to assess the function of major organs and systems. At certain ages, they may order tests, such as colonoscopies and mammograms. This visit is when you should share family medical history and any troubling symptoms you might be experiencing. Should it become necessary, your PCP will coordinate care among other specialists, including OBGYN’s, cardiologists, pulmonologists and others.


Here are some examples of healthcare concerns that are particularly troubling for women and that might be avoided, or at least lessened, with early primary care:


Heart Disease is the leading cause of death of women in the United States, accounting for about one in four female deaths. Contributing factors are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and diabetes. The detrimental impact of these conditions doesn’t happen suddenly but rather over time. That’s why it is vitally important to begin seeing a PCP at a young age, so that these conditions, which typically have few if any symptoms, can be detected and treated before they become life threatening.


Cancer is exceeded only by heart disease as a cause of death. Every year cancer claims the lives of more than 250,000 women in America. The most common kinds of cancer among women in the U.S. are skin, breast, lung, colorectal, and uterine.


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) is the third leading cause of death in the United States. In Alabama, about 10.8% of women and 8.3% of men are diagnosed with COPD. What should you do to prevent COPD? First, and foremost, don’t smoke. If you are currently a smoker, your PCP can help you with a smoking cessation plan.


Good tips to follow:


Don’t smoke, and avoid secondhand smoke.


Stay up-to-date on screening tests for breast, cervical, colorectal, and lung cancer.


Protect your skin from the sun when outdoors, and avoid indoor tanning beds.


Stay active, keep a healthy weight, and limit alcohol consumption.


By being an active participant with your PCP, you can be assured that your family history, medical history, gynecological issues, family planning, and troubling symptoms are being viewed in totality. To schedule an appointment, just call our new patient line at 256-383-4447 ext. 124, visit www.medshoals.com and click on “New Patients,” or email us at talktous@medshoals.com. We see patients who are 14 and older. We’ll get you scheduled as quickly as possible.

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