Mammogram
A mammogram in process. Courtesy CDC

COVID-19 took a toll on families, most certainly women. The struggles of keeping kids fed, clothed, and focused on virtual learning all while they tried to keep up with their job in their makeshift home office overwhelmed many heads of households. That meant their own healthcare concerns took a back seat, and understandably so.

Now that the world is slowly getting back to normal, we see more women coming back in for preventative care and checkups. My organization, Neighborhood Healthcare, saw an uptick in visits by women from pre-COVID times in 2021 by as much as 20%.

Telehealth and other services make it easier to start the conversation with healthcare professionals, and we certainly encourage that when needed. Perhaps the reality of the global pandemic also got more people, including women, to realize the importance of taking time to focus on their health. Regardless of the reason, we’re glad to see this improving trend!

Women especially must take time to care for themselves. Many continue to serve others in multiple roles in and outside the home with work and parenting. The more women focus on their health needs, the better they can help those that they love.

Even women without adequate health insurance can get the care they need through assistance programs. Organizations like ours can help identify these opportunities and help patients through the enrollment process. Quality, compassionate, whole-person care is — and should be — available for anyone, most especially women. At a minimum, we encourage all women to do the following:

Get a Mammogram

Mammograms can often show a breast lump before it can be felt. These scans can also detect other non-cancerous abnormalities that should get treated. Women over 40 should schedule a mammogram every one to two years, and we recommend all women discuss options with their healthcare provider.

Schedule a Pap Test

A Pap smear, also called a Pap test, detects cervical cancer in women. Getting one early can give women a greater chance of catching this issue early and getting cured. Per American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists guidelines, we recommend that women have a Pap smear every three years between ages 21-29, and every five years for a HPV/Pap co-test between ages 30-65.

Consider the HPV Vaccine for Girls

This vaccine can prevent most cases of cervical cancer if administered before girls or women are exposed to the virus.

However, the HPV vaccine is not limited to girls and women. We recommended that boys and girls receive two doses six months apart as early as age 9, but usually between 11 and 12 years old. The CDC also recommends a catch-up schedule for all up to age 26.

The trend in increased preventative healthcare visits by women is encouraging, and we hope this continues, not just for them, but for others. In most cases, the family unit is healthier if the female head of the household prioritizes her well-being.

Elena Chavarria is the Director of Women’s Health Program at Neighborhood Healthcare, a community healthcare non-profit organization for San Diego and Riverside Counties that provides care to everyone, regardless of their situation or circumstance.