SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — May is Women’s Health Awareness Month and doctors are reminding women the importance of taking care of their physical and mental health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of death in American women are:

  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • COVID-19

Shari Cook, Family Nurse Practitioner for Missouri Ozarks Community Health said it’s important for women to do screenings, such as mammograms, to make sure nothing is abnormal. Screenings also help to catch signs of cancer or other diseases early.

“It’s very important to come in annually,” said Cook. “We recommend an annual women’s exam just so we can keep track of the patient and identify things we might be able to find early which is a lot easier when it comes to treatment.”

Doctors are also recommending women start their gynecology care early.

“That will carry them through their childbearing years and on through their menopausal years,” said Dr. Selma Taylor with Missouri Ozarks Community Health.

It is recommended for women ages 21-29 to a have Pap test every 3 years, but Cook said they recommend women to start seeing a gynecologist before they become sexually active.

“[Because] we can talk to them about safer sex practices, contraceptive care, they won’t need a Pap test at that age but we could still do annual well visits with them,” said Cook.

Dr. Taylor said seeing an OBGYN is especially important since studies are showing more girls are becoming sexually active at a younger age.

Dr. Taylor and Cook also spoke about the program called ShowMe Healthy Women. This program offers free breast and cervical cancer screening for women who meet the following guidelines:

  • Income at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level for household income, and
  • Age 35 to 64, or older if they do not receive Medicare Part B, and
  • No insurance to cover program services