Columbia health services for women over thirty

Originally Published: April 18, 2008
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Hi,

I am a Columbia grad student. I'm a 35 year-old woman and I'm a bit concerned about what primary care services are offered to me. I tried to make an appointment for an annual exam, and it seems this is only a pap. But I've never had a blood lipid exam done (not even a cholesterol check), and my understanding is that after 30, a complete blood lipid exam is done.

I'd like to know what I should have done for preventive primary care as a 35 y.o. female, and what of those services are offered through health services and which I'll have to go outside of health services. I should have had this figured out by now, but the most I ever do — and it seems the most that Health Services even offers — is the pap smear. As I grow older, I know that there should be more. Personally, I think the routine primary health care needs of older students should be served by Health Services, so I'm hoping I can get other things done — whatever they may be — performed there as well.

Dear Reader,

While you may need to go off-campus for a few of your medical needs, Health Services at Columbia does offer significantly more than a pap smear. If you are enrolled in the Columbia Student Medical Insurance Plan, you are covered for a comprehensive set of medical and mental health services from on- and off-campus health care providers. If you are not enrolled in the Columbia insurance plan, you should contact your health insurance company to find out details about your medical coverage. Regardless of your insurance company, any Columbia student can visit Primary Care Medical Services and Counseling and Psychological Services, both located on-campus, for standard primary care and short-term mental health care.

For the 30-plus women, there are a few routine tests that are recommended to make sure that all systems are functioning as they should. The most significant of these recommended tests are:

  • Blood Pressure reading at least every two years for early detection of high blood pressure, which can put you at greater risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and kidney damage. Heart disease is the number one cause of death for women; early detection and management of high blood pressure can significantly reduce the likelihood of a heart disease.
  • Mammograms are recommended once for women between the ages of 35 to 40, and yearly for most women after age 40 to detect any possible cancerous or pre-cancerous changes in breast tissue. Some women begin the screenings earlier if they have a relative with the disease or a personal history of breast cancer.
  • Pap smears are recommended at least every three years to catch and monitor any cancerous or precancerous changes on your cervix.
  • Lipid tests, as you mentioned, are recommended at least every five years. This test measures the fats (lipids) in your blood to evaluate the level of cholesterol and triglycerides, which also helps you and your health care provider understand your risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Dental cleanings are recommended annually to thoroughly clean your mouth and to check for any conditions that may need attention.

Of these recommended tests, blood pressure, pap smears, and cholesterol/lipid screening can be done on campus, in addition to basic eye and hearing exams and standard physical exams. To make an appointment, you can log onto Open Communicator or call x4-2284. For an appointment with Counseling and Psychological Services call x4-2878.

Mammograms are done off campus because Columbia doesn't have the necessary equipment for them, but the procedure is covered through Columbia Student Medical Insurance Plan for women over the age of 35 or with a family or personal history of breast cancer. Women with a prior history of breast cancer are covered for more frequent mammograms. Your primary care provider on campus can give you a referral to a mammogram provider.

If you choose to enroll in the Aetna Advantage Dental Plan (optional for Columbia students), cleanings are done off-campus through a provider on Aetna's provider list. Students who choose not to enroll in dental coverage can still visit a dentist near campus for reduced-cost cleanings and services. Check out Health Services' Dental Care Options page for more information.

Other off-campus services, like long-term mental health care and chiropractic work are covered by Columbia's health insurance if you have a referral from your campus health care provider. Of course, in an emergency, you can always seek treatment without a prior referral; the cost of emergency treatment, such as a co-pay for an emergency hospital admission, are outlined in the Columbia Student Medical Insurance Plan. Check out the links below to other articles in the Go Ask Alice! database about services provided by Columbia for its students.

Between appointments you can do your best to stay healthy by eating a healthy, balanced diet, and getting plenty of sleep and exercise. To health!
Alice