5 Doctors Every Woman Needs in Her Contacts List

Even if you're healthy and rarely get sick, there are a few medical experts you may want to consider getting to know. Here’s a list of the five doctors every woman should keep in her contact list:

  1. Primary Care Physician. Think of your primary care physician (PCP) as kind of a central clearinghouse through which all your medical care is managed—even if the care is provided by another specialist. Your PCP will perform your annual physical, and should focus on prevention strategies, explains Stacey Rosen, MD, vice president of women’s health at the Katz Institute for Women’s Health, which is part of the North Shore-LIJ Health System in New York. "Depending on your age and your family’s medical history, she will tell you when you should get a mammogram, a colonoscopy or routine blood work, as well as discuss lifestyle strategies to decrease the risk of important medical conditions," she says. "She takes into account your family’s health history along with your personal medical history. If your family has diabetes, your primary care physician will keep a close eye on that."
  2. Dermatologist. The incidence of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, has been on the rise for the past 30 years, according to the American Cancer Society. In 2014, 76,100 new melanomas will be diagnosed in the US. Not only will a dermatologist screen you for skin cancer, but your derm can counsel you on everything from acne and weird looking moles to stretch marks and cellulite. Frequent skin cancer screenings may be in order; ask your derm how often you should have a screening.
  3. Ophthalmologist. Even if you don't wear eyeglasses or contacts, it's a good idea to see an ophthalmologist every year. "It’s so important to protect vision, yet we take it so much for granted," says Martha Gulati, MD, MS, FACC, FAHA, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. And, she adds, a comprehensive eye exam can reveal information about your health that extends far beyond your eyes: "I have had patients referred to me because an ophthalmologist, through an eye exam, saw signs of hypertension and high cholesterol," she says. "It is just amazing how much a proper eye exam can tell about your health."
  4. Gynecologist. Your gynecologist will perform regular pelvic exams and tell you when you should have a Pap smear, which can detect cervical cancer. She will follow up to make sure you have had vaccinations for conditions like Hepatitis A and B, and offer advice on when to get the vaccination for Human Papillomavirus (HPV). You will rely on your gynecologist for information on the best birth control method for you, and she’ll also coordinate prenatal care if you become pregnant.
  5. Cardiologist. Heart disease remains the number one killer of women. "Part of the reason for this is that we don’t do a good enough job at preventing heart disease," Gulati says. "Yet over 80 percent of heart disease is preventable." Women should have a cardiologic assessment regularly, she says, and it should be performed by a specialist. "By visiting a cardiologist, a woman can make sure that she has had her cardiac risk assessed and addressed," Gulati says. "A cardiologist can help clarify both short-term and lifetime risk for heart disease."

Stacey Rosen, MD, reviewed this article.


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