Gerdes: Women’s health is about more than our breasts |

Gerdes: Women’s health is about more than our breasts

Lindsey Gerdes
For The Tribune

Kaiser Permanente Greeley MOB in Greeley, CO., Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. (Photo by Barry Gutierrez) EP Backgrounds

When we hear "women's health," we tend to associate it with breast cancer, and it tends to come with a deluge of the color pink, along with Race for the Cure events and conversations about early detection and treatment. While it's critical to have informed discussions about breast cancer, I believe those conversations can be widened a bit to include all aspects of women's health. From vaccinations to screenings, what do women really need to know?

For women between the ages of 18-49, consider the following:


» Get a Tdap shot once every 10 years to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough.

» Get an annual flu vaccine.

» Consider getting the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine series up to age 26 in order to prevent cervical cancer.

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» Have your blood pressure checked every two years. If you have high blood pressure, defined as 140/90 or above, have it checked at least once per year.

» Test for diabetes every three years. This is important if you have high blood pressure.

» Chlamydia tests are recommended every year up to age 25 for sexually active women.

» Cervical cancer screenings should take place every three years starting at age 21. After 30, you may also test for HPV. If that test is negative, another test isn't recommended for three-five years.

» Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of getting a mammogram beginning at age 40.

Paying closer attention to your health becomes even more important as you age. For women older than 50, here are some recommendations to achieve good health:


» A Tdap shot is recommended once every 10 years.

» Beginning at age 65, get a pneumovax shot once to protect against pneumonia.

» Get a zoster shot once, between ages 60-79, to protect against shingles.

» Get an annual flu vaccine. A good opportunity to get a free flu shot this year will be at Kaiser Permanente's women's health event Nov. 6.


» A cholesterol and heart risk assessment should occur every five years until at least age 80.

» Get checked for diabetes every three years, especially if you have high blood pressure. This should be done every year if you have pre-diabetes and every five years for those with no risk factors.

» Anyone over 50 should be screened for colon cancer through a colonoscopy or stool screening.

» Start osteoporosis screenings at age 65 or at 50 if you are high risk.

» Continue to be screened for cervical cancer every three to five years until age 65 if you have no previous history of abnormal Pap tests.

» If you have a family history of breast cancer or have had a previous atypical breast biopsy, get a mammogram every year. Otherwise, women ages 50-75 should have a mammogram every one or two years.

Now, this is a lot of info to absorb in a short time frame so don't worry if it's making your head spin. If you have additional questions about screenings or just want to learn more about women's health, give your primary care or OB-GYN physician a call. They'd be more than happy to discuss it further with you.

While National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a perfect time to talk about the women in our lives' health (mother, daughter, sister, grandmother, etc.), health isn't limited to one month — it's a lifelong journey. It's made easier if we heed this important advice early, but it's also never too late to start making healthier decisions. I encourage you to explore your options for health and share this advice with your loved ones.

— Dr. Lindsey Gerdes is a family medicine physician practicing at the Kaiser Permanente Greeley Medical Offices.