Don’t Cancel that Gyno Appointment | by
Many women incorrectly assume they get a pass on their yearly exam with the gynecologist because Pap smears are now recommended every three years for women under 30 and every five years for older women, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. A pap test looks for changes in the cells of the cervix that show cervical cancer or conditions that may develop into cancer. It’s an important test, but not the only reason to see your gynecologist.
“Even if you don’t get the pap, you still need to come in for your annual and for the other parts of the exam,” says Dr. Elizabeth Newell, an obstetrician-gynecologist with Mountain Vista OB/GYN and Midwifery in Littleton.
The annual exam, often referred as the “well-woman’s visit” by many health providers, is an important doctor visit where multiple women’s health aspects are reviewed. If you are a woman between the ages of 21 to 65, you should be seeing a gynecologist annually.
“We give a head to toe exam,” Newell says. “We examine your breasts, review your period history, conduct a pap smear to check for cervical cancer, examine the cervix and the external area of the vagina, and we can screen for STDs or infections.”
Also important to this visit is the opportunity for women to talk about health concerns generally, as well as specifically relating to the various stages of life from fertility to heavy bleeding to menopause.
“Some women go for years without an exam and then we find out they have cancer,” says Glenn Bigsby a gynecologic oncologist with The Colorado Center for Gynecologic Oncology in Littleton. “Women need to see us regularly and help us prevent things.”
For menopausal women and older women, it is particularly important to stay on top of your appointments since many health-related issues frequently arise as women age, such as breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Bigsby also emphasizes that women who had hysterectomies still see their gynecologist, particularly if they previously had abnormal pap smears.
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