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Monday, November 7, 2022

Beyond the Pap: Important Women’s Health Screenings

 Dr. Robert Wool


Most women are familiar with the Pap smear because it’s typically the first women’s health screening they have. Part of an annual gynecological exam, a Pap test is first recommended when a woman becomes sexually active or turns 21, whichever comes first. After that, it should be part of your annual exam every three to five years, depending on your personal and family medical history. But beyond the Pap, there are other important women’s screenings you should have, including the ones below.


Gyn Cancer Screenings

The Pap test can help detect cervical cancer, which often has no obvious symptoms in its earliest stages. It can also be combined with testing for the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection that can cause cervical cancer. HPV vaccinations can help prevent HPV infections, but we may also recommend regular testing based on your personal situation.


While there aren’t screenings for every type of gynecological cancer, your annual exams allow your provider to make sure everything looks and feels as it should. These visits are also opportunities to talk about any issues you are having that could be subtle signs of a larger problem, such as ovarian or uterine cancer.  


Breast Cancer Screening and Mammography

All women should perform monthly breast self-exams. This helps you get used to how your breasts normally look and feel, so you can tell as early as possible if something changes. We can show you how to do this simple exam. We’ll also perform a breast exam as part of your annual gyn exam. 


Recommendations around when to start mammograms have shifted over the past decade. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that all women between the ages of 50 and 75 who are at average risk of breast cancer have mammograms every two years, but this can vary significantly based on your personal and family medical history. We’ll talk with you about your risk factors and concerns and help you decide when to start getting screening mammograms. 


STD Testing

For several years now, data from the CDC indicates that syphilis cases and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the United States continue to increase. Because many of these infections have no obvious symptoms in the early stages, understanding your risk factors and the subtle symptoms of these diseases is important to protect your health.


We recommend that you get tested for HIV/AIDS at least once after age 20, or earlier if you are at high risk for being infected by the human immunodeficiency virus. Discuss further testing with your health care provider. We can develop a personal plan for future screening for HIV—as well as other STDs such as syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, hepatitis and trichomoniasis—based on your individual circumstances.


Bone Density Screening

Unfortunately, when you enter menopause, lower estrogen puts you at increased risk for several health conditions including osteoporosis, a condition in which your bones become brittle, weak and more prone to fractures.


If you are menopausal and not taking hormone replacement therapy, it’s a good idea to have a baseline bone density screening test to assess the condition of your bones. If you have other risk factors, such as a personal or a family history of osteoporosis or bone fractures, we may recommend earlier screening. We perform this simple, painless test right in our office.


Your Lifetime Screening Plan

Of course, there are many routine health screenings you should have throughout your life, from blood pressure checks and blood tests to colonoscopies and more. That’s why we are committed to developing long-term relationships with our patients. We will work with you throughout your life span to provide guidance and recommendations to help keep you healthy and catch problems early when they are most treatable.


If it’s been more than a year since your last gynecological appointment, please give us a call to schedule one today.