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Busting common myths about womens health

At HAP, we want to make sure that YOU have all the tools needed to be your healthiest self.

In honor of Women’s Health Month, we interviewed real doctors to find and bust common health-related myths for women. Knowledge can be the greatest asset when it comes to making educated health decisions. These health decisions can be especially important when it comes to preventive tests and screenings that can save your life!

Finding health issues and getting treatment early on can help improve your chances of getting better, faster. Preventive services like mammograms, cervical cancer screenings and sexually transmitted infection (STI) tests, not only help your doctor to monitor your health, but they can also give you the peace of mind knowing you are as healthy as you can be.

Read on to learn more about common health-related myths for women and how you can make sure you are staying on top of your preventive tests and screenings!

Myth 1: “I’m young and healthy, therefore I do not need to get a mammogram.”  

Fact: A woman has about 12% or 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer during her lifetime. She has a higher chance of surviving if it is found early. It’s recommended that women get an annual mammogram starting at age 40 and continue to get mammograms every 1-2 years. Some women may start earlier. This depends on her personal family and genetic history. It’s important to talk about mammograms with your doctor and learn when this type of screening is right for you!

 Myth 2: “Mammograms are painful and take too long.”

Fact: Mammograms are completed by an x-ray technician, who takes images of the inside of a patient’s breasts for a radiologist to look at and see if there are any signs of cancer. The patient’s breast rests on a fixed plate while an upper plate gently presses down to get a more detailed image. This part can be uncomfortable but does not usually hurt and lasts less than a minute each time. The whole process takes about 10-20 minutes. Patients can get their results back within a week. It’s important to ask your doctor how you will get these results back, so that you know what to expect.

 Myth 3: “Preventive screenings like Mammograms are expensive.”

Fact: Mammograms and other preventive services are free through your insurance. The doctor may need to do additional tests, like a biopsy, if there is an abnormal finding, which may have a small cost. Always contact your insurance to learn if additional tests may have a cost. 

 Myth 4: “HPV (Also known as human papillomavirus infection) is rare, therefore I do not need the vaccine.”

Fact: HPV is actually very common. It is the most common STI. HPV infections can cause genital warts, cervical cancer, throat cancer, vulvar cancer and anal cancer. The HPV vaccine can stop you from getting an infection. It’s recommended that patients get this vaccine around 11 or 12 years old, but you can get the vaccine in the U.S. from 9 – 45 years old. There are different types of vaccines available for HPV, so it’s important to talk to your doctor to learn what your risk level is for HPV and see which vaccine is right for you.

 Myth 5: “My partner and I use birth control, so I do not need to worry about STIs or get tested.” 

Fact: Condoms can be 98% effective in preventing pregnancy, however their effectiveness depends on if they are used the right way. They can also help protect you from STIs like syphilis, herpes, HIV, gonorrhea and chlamydia. But even if you use a condom, you can still get an STI. Each STI can have a different route of transmission, infectivity and some are more common than others. HPV is the most common STI, and it can be in other areas that a condom does not cover. It’s a good practice to make sure the condoms you use state on the package that they protect against both pregnancy and STIs. Other birth control options like the pill or IUDs (intrauterine device) only help stop pregnancies, not STIs. To help stop the spread of STIs, it’s a good practice to get tested. If you do have an STI, your doctor can help you get treatment. 

 Myth 6: “If I have HPV, I’m going to get cervical cancer.” 

Fact: HPV infection and the chance of getting cervical cancer is very complex.  HPV has a lot of strains that can be divided into low-risk and high-risk. Low-risk types of HPV usually account for genital warts and rarely cause cervical cancer. The high-risk types of HPV are those that can affect the cervix and can cause cervical cancer. With the HPV infection, some women may not have any symptoms. Keeping up to date with your pap smear/cervical cancer screening is so important since early detection and treatment can cure you before cervical cancer develops.

 Myth 7: “STIs are easy to self-diagnose, so I don’t need to go to the doctor or get tested.”

Fact: Many STIs have no symptoms and can go unnoticed and untreated. Having multiple sexual partners and not using condoms can increase your chances of getting an STI. Some of these can also cause damage to the female organs, which can lead to frequent pain and infertility (unable to get pregnant). It’s very important to stay on top of your annual Well-Care Visits, get STI tested regularly, and get treatment when needed. Routine visits help maintain your health. 

 Myth 8: “If I get an STI urine test, the doctor will be able to tell I’ve used recreational drugs.” 

Fact: When your doctor does a STI test with a urine sample, they will only test for STIs. Recreational drug use is not tested. It is important to make sure you get your tests completed to make sure you stay healthy. 

 Myth 9: “I only need to visit the doctor when I’m sick.”  

Fact: It’s important to remember that preventive care is one of the best ways to stay healthy. You should not wait to feel sick to seek care. Many medical conditions and their symptoms can be managed or treated with regular visits to the doctor’s office. Waiting to get care can make it harder to treat or control medical issues. 

 Myth 10: “I can’t go to the doctor because it costs too much.” 

Fact: Medical bills can be scary for anyone.  But keep in mind that all preventive care is fully covered by your insurance.  This includes all the preventive screenings and management of any health conditions.  Staying up to date on annual Well Women Visits, screening, and keeping up on your medical conditions all help you stay healthy. Transportation services can be provided by your health insurance plan.  This can help one get to appointments and scheduled screenings- such as mammograms, at no extra cost.

All these busted myths lead to one common fact: Visiting your doctor annually is very important. Not only do annual visits help you to create a relationship with your doctor, but they can also help you to find out what your risk factors are to help make sure you stay healthy.

Many women can “put off” or delay going to the doctors, finding it hard to prioritize their health. Life can get busy with our jobs, families and everything in between, but making sure you do what you can to keep yourself healthy is not only good for you, it’s also good for those who care about you. Your health matters. You deserve to feel good and be healthy.

If you are behind on your tests and screenings, do not worry. It is never too late to get back on track. The best place to start is by scheduling an appointment with your doctor.

If you are a HAP member and need help finding out who your doctor is, or would like to choose a new doctor, contact us.

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