Sunday, May 9th marked the beginning of National Women's Health Week! If I'm honest, I didn't know this was a thing until I heard it on the radio during my morning commute. If that wasn't exciting enough, today, May 10th is National Women's Checkup Day. Again, I wasn't aware of this special day either until today.
The theme for this year's NWHW is "Ending the Epidemic and Elevating Women's Health". According to their website, "National Women's Heath Week (NWHW) is a weeklong health observance by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health (OWH). The week May 9 - 15, 2021 serves as a reminder for women and girls, especially during the outbreak of COVID-19, to make their health a priority and take care of themselves." This introduction is followed by a checklist of ways to get and stay healthy.
While most of the talking points speak to the ongoing pandemic (which makes sense with the aforementioned theme), I was so excited to see that included in the list was a reminder about preventative care:
Talk to your doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner, and/or physician assistant:
about preventative care such as PAP smears, mammograms, bone density scans, stress tests, cholesterol screenings, blood pressure screenings, physical exams, and other preventative health screenings that you may have missed during the pandemic
As you may know, my regular gynecologic care is the number one reason my endometrial cancer was caught in stage one, grade one. Even when having regular checkups, many women are not as fortunate as I was, and their gynecologic cancers go undiagnosed for YEARS.
Want to hear a crazy story?? Listen to our interview with Yohannah Hoeler about her seven year journey to a vulvar cancer diagnosis.
While I understand that COVID-19 has consumed our every waking thought and action, and many people are still experiencing high cases in their communities, I can't help but wonder if this singular mention is enough to spark motivation in women who haven't kept up with their regular checkups.
I also can't help but wonder why this week isn't more well publicized. The default excuse is likely that it's a government program and funds are slim, if they exist at all. According to the Fact Sheet on the WomensHealth.com NWHW website, this dedicated week is celebrating its 30th year. I'm sure they aren't lying, but I'm 34 and I don't remember ever seeing this week celebrated or even mentioned at all. I bring this up because I can't help but wonder what we can do to help spread the word. DTA is dedicated to informing women about gynecologic cancers and women's healthcare, and we hope with our weekly podcast and growing social media presence we will be able to continue educating women about the importance of knowledge of their bodies, as well as keeping up with their regular exams. But what can we do, as individuals to spread the word? Well for starters, we can start talking! For so long discussing women's health and using words like PAP smear, vagina, or breast in common conversation has been taboo and unacceptable. We are here to end the stigma and speak loudly and boldly for all women.
Each week on the podcast, mom and I try to discuss various topics that impact a woman's health, while sharing our personal experiences, the knowledge of experts, and anecdotal evidence from women just like you. The details may vary slightly, but the message remains the same:
Gynecologic health should be a priority and every woman, regardless of age, race, creed, shape, or size should be treated as an individual and given the utmost care by her attending physicians and healthcare providers.
As we continue to celebrate National Women's Health Week, be sure to check out all of the resources provided by the Office on Women's Health, and follow Down There Aware on our social media channels to discover more facts and trends regarding women's health!
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