7 Annual Wellness Exams To Get As A Black Woman

7 Annual Wellness Exams To Get As A Black Woman

By Sascha Ealey


Many African American women are heavily burdened by unmet health needs and tend to underuse health services. Black women are at higher risk for certain illnesses, which is why screenings are invaluable tools for us. According to an article on ZocDoc: Health Screenings Black Women Should Consider, the all cause mortality rate for Black people is 24% higher than other races. 74,000 Black people will die unnecessarily every year and inequality plays a major role in the disease rate of Black women. It's a scary and harsh reality, but one that is absolutely necessary for us to be aware of. Knowing these statistics, it's imperative that we prioritize our physical health. Which is why the RVL squad would like to present 7 wellness tests/exams that you should receive as a Black woman:


1. Annual Check-Up

Before we begin to dive into age-appropriate screenings, annual well-woman visits are important starting at 21. During these visits, your doctor will check your blood pressure, check your hearing, cholesterol, BMI weight, thyroid and make sure you are up-to-date on vaccinations. 


2. Breast Exam

Breast cancer is often thought of as a disease that impacts older women, but I am here to tell you that nearly 10% of all breast cancer cases are found in women younger than 45 years of age. 

Breast cancer screening is the best defense against breast cancer. Getting a breast cancer screening is an act of self-love and a form of self-care. The American College of Radiology recommends annual screening mammograms for all women over 40, regardless of symptoms or family history, but there may be some instances where you will have to get it younger.

For those of you who may not know, a mammogram is a test that uses X-rays to create images of the breast. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Black women. Talk to your healthcare professional to sift through information and together you can identify risk factors and preferences that can change how often you should be screened. 

Knowing what to expect may help the process go more smoothly. In a nutshell, a general mammogram will require you to undress above the waist. It will just be you and the technologist. Your breast will be compressed by a machine to get the best quality picture. There might be a bit of discomfort, but it is well worth it. The whole exam takes about 20 minutes. 

Another way to check for any abnormalities in the breast is to self-examine your breast. Take your 3 middle fingers and check the entire breast and armpit area, pressing down with firm pressure. Feel for any lumps or hardened knots.

Ladies, take the next steps and schedule an appointment to get screened, learn more about breast self-awareness, and read more about how to care for your breasts. 


3. Pelvic Exam

You may not need a pap test every year, but if you are a woman who is 21 or older, you should have a gynecological pelvic exam as part of your wellness maintenance. Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer and have lower five-year survival rates. Black women are also more likely to be positive for Human papillomavirus (HPV), an infection that causes warts in various parts of the body.

A pelvic exam may need to be done for several reasons. It may be done to check your sexual and reproductive health or to diagnose a medical condition. A pelvic exam is done in your doctor's office. It often takes only a few minutes. You will have to change out of your clothes and into a gown. Before the exam, your doctor may listen or check different parts of your body. A third person may be in the room to accompany the doctor. During the exam, you’ll lie on your back on an exam table with your knees bent. You will have to slide your body towards the end of the table and let your knees fall apart. 

You'll lie on your back on an exam table with your knees bent. Your feet will usually be placed on the corners of the table or in supports called stirrups. You'll likely be asked to slide your body toward the end of the table and let your knees fall open. This exam will mostly include an external and internal visual exam. The external exam includes looking for irritation, changes in skin color, or sores and swelling. The internal exam includes using a plastic metal-hinged tool called a speculum that looks into the walls of the vagina. Like the mammogram, it can be uncomfortable, but well worth it. 


4. Skin Cancer Screening

When skin cancer develops in people of color, it is often a late stage when diagnosed. A type of skin cancer that can be deadly and spread quickly is melanoma. Even if you never sunburn, you can get skin cancer. Like a breast exam, the best way to check for skin cancer is to examine your skin. Check for dark patches or sores. 

The other way is to see a dermatologist. The doctor will carefully take a look at your skin from head to toe. A dermatoscope is a handheld device that allows the doctor to evaluate an area. As part of the screening, your doctor may recommend a biopsy, which involves taking a sample of the skin to test for cancer.


5. Diabetes Screening/Blood Sugar Test

Your doctor will take blood tests such as blood sugar and glucose screening for diabetes. It’s a simple test that measures the level of sugar, called glucose in your blood. You should start routine testing once you reach the age of 45. If you are at a higher risk, your doctor will suggest having it done sooner. 


6. Bone Density Testing

As you age, your bones become thinner and weaker. Over time, it can lead to a condition called osteoporosis. If you are 65 or older, you should have your bone density tested. Treatments are available if the doctor finds that you have weak bones. 


7. Dental Check Up

Bacteria and inflammation in your mouth have been found to play a role in several diseases, which is why all adult women need regular dental check-ups. Regular dental check-ups involve cleaning, examining the teeth, and X-rays to spot early signs of decay and other problems. 

When life gets busy, it’s easy to delay or skip important health screenings, but the longer certain illnesses go undetected, the bigger the opportunity there is to grow and spread. Regular screenings are the best way to detect anything that may be wrong early and may be easier to treat. Knowing can be terrifying, but it can also be empowering!


To help stay ahead of the game, the RVL squad recommends that as Black women, we prioritize our health by following up on the health screenings mentioned. We must first understand just how universal these issues are amongst Black women. We need to also better understand the consequences when those health issues go unaddressed. Since we face higher risks for certain illnesses and causes of death, health screenings are invaluable tools that help providers keep tabs on your health. Taking action can definitely improve the outcome for Black women and their families. 

Until next time, take care RVL tribe. And let this be a gentle reminder to schedule your next health exam today.

See all articles in Wellness Wednesday Blog


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