Women's Routine Health Screenings During COVID19

Northwestern Medicine
Women's Health May 25, 2020

Living in a pandemic, our immediate concerns are to contain and avoid the virus.  We cannot, however, forget to care for ourselves. Many women are concerned about missing important annual health screenings, and Northwestern Medicine is taking steps to make sure routine, preventive health care appointments are safe and accessible for our patients.

Kristi Tough DeSapri, MD, director of Northwestern Women’s Bone Health Program at the Northwestern Medicine Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause, answers some questions about routine women’s health screenings.

Should women continue screenings such as mammogram?

Mammograms for screening and particularly diagnostic or surveillance of a previously diagnosed abnormality should not be missed. Medical guidelines vary on frequency of mammogram but the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends:

  • After counseling, initiate mammography at age 40 years

  • Start mammography screening by no later than age 50 years

  • Mammography may be annual or every other year

  • Continue mammography until age 75 years, then discuss discontinuation based on patient longevity and medical history

Northwestern is continuing to offer screening mammogram at Prentice Women’s Hospital, and imaging sites in Bucktown, Lakeview and suburban locations.  As with all visits to the hospitals or health care facilities, patients are provided a mask and screened for symptoms /temperature check for COVID 19.

Should women obtain a DXA (dual X-ray energy absorptiometry?)

Eight million women in the United States and 54 million globally have osteoporosis. The diagnosis of osteoporosis is made from a DXA scan or from a history of a fragility fracture which is a fall from a standing height or less. Examples of this are:  tripping over a rug, pet, laundry on the floor, ice or grass. Many women with osteoporosis don’t know they have it until they break a bone.  But osteoporosis is preventable and treatable.

 DXA testing to evaluate bone mineral strength and your risk of fracture may continue with the same precautions at most institutions including Northwestern.

 What about my annual gynecologic exam?

Currently, many routine health visits have been re-scheduled as telemedicine appointments. This offers a chance to check in with your doctor. During video and phone consults, women can initiate or have contraceptives refilled, hormone therapy or pre-conception counseling and even consults about bothersome menopausal symptoms, menstrual irregularity, heavy menstrual bleeding or chronic pelvic pain can be initiated.

Obviously routine gynecologic or pelvic exams and cervical cancer screenings (PAP smears) will be delayed, however they should not be skipped entirely. Women with vaginal infections, urinary tract infection symptoms or concerns about sexually transmitted infections or those who need IUDs for contraception should contact their Ob/GYN to determine if in-person visit is recommend

For more information about Northwestern Medicine Women’s Bone Health Program and Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause visit www.sexmedmenopause.nm.org.


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