Posts Tagged ‘Pap Smears’
Coming of Age: The Importance of Women’s Health and Finding a Compassionate, Trusting OBGYN for Years to Come
Expert interviews conducted with the Women’s Specialists of Plano (OBGYN in Plano, TX)
By the time a female turns 21, her body has already experienced a myriad of emotional and physical changes. With the onset of cyclic hormone production from the ovaries, secondary sexual characteristics such as breast development and pubic hair growth begins.
Approximately 18 months after this, and at about 100 pounds, the menstrual cycle begins. Frequently, these developmental milestones create individual issues that require a specialist’s input. The adolescent time (pre-teen to age 21) may also require consultation regarding infection, vaginal discharge, and contraception. As women age, the body continues to change, making gynecological “well-woman” visits and a trusted resource regarding healthcare for women even more important. This article discusses the importance of healthcare for women, and more importantly, finding a trusted, skilled practitioner who is in practice solely for the health of a woman, and understands the issues, conditions, and underlying factors that ultimately affect the health and well-being of the female body.
According to the Women’s Specialists of Plano, a group of gynecologists in Plano, Texas who provide women’s healthcare throughout North Texas, new guidelines in the area of Pap smears have evolved over the past several years. However, many of the other guidelines surrounding well visits and women’s physical health remain the same.
The new guidelines in the area of gynecological care state that a woman should have her first Pap smear around the age of 21. During a routine Pap smear, a gynecologist will insert a small instrument called a speculum into the vagina to visualize the cervix and collect a sample of cells to be checked under a microscope. If a Pap smear appears abnormal once it is analyzed, additional tests will be needed to diagnose the underlying cause of the abnormality.
Most women will continue to have a Pap smear every year following the first, but after the age of 30, it may not be required as often and many will begin having one every other year, or at the advice of their physician. One known fact is that Pap smears are crucial to a woman’s health. Medical professionals state that the occurrence of cervical cancer is higher in patients in whom a Pap smear was not performed, with the majority of diagnosed cases being in patients who have not had a Pap smear test in five or more years.
Even though the first Pap smear may not take place until around age 21, it is recommended that teenage girls begin seeing a gynecologist around the age of 15 for problems related to the female organs and puberty. By this time, they have most likely started their menstrual cycle and it is a good time to begin establishing a relationship with a trusted resource and talk about questions regarding contraceptives, gynecological issues such as menstrual cramps, abnormal bleeding, and hormonally-related mood swings, as well as STD’s.
In time, before the first Pap smear, a routine pelvic exam will be performed. During a pelvic exam, a gynecologist will look and feel the external and internal reproductive organs. This exam helps to make sure that these organs are healthy and that no underlying condition exists. Many medical professionals recommend a woman have their first pelvic exam if they have not started their menstrual cycle by age 16, by the time they have become sexually active, or have reached the age of 18. If a woman is a virgin it is still important to have this exam. Problems with bleeding, cramping, pain, or discharge, can be diagnosed and treated with this exam will help determine if there is a medical problem.
Women’s Healthcare—What Next?
After the age of 21, a woman should visit her gynecologist every year. Topics surrounding healthcare for women will become very important in the years that follow as additional body changes occur, and the topic of pregnancy and childbirth become more relevant. Routine Pap smears, pelvic exams, breast exams, weight, blood pressure and nutritional health will be at the forefront of these visits. Some gynecological conditions, such as Endometriosis, are often detected in women who are in their 20s. Endometriosis is a condition in which uterine endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus on the fallopian tubes and ovaries leading to abnormal bleeding and cramping, and in some cases, infertility. Vaginal infections such as yeast infections are also more prevalent in this age group.
By age 30, the body will continue to change. The transition into menopause can last more than 10 years, but the average age for perimenopause can start as early as 35. During a woman’s 30’s, estrogen begins to naturally decrease within the body. In addition, between the ages of 30 and 40, a good percentage of American women will develop fibroids—small, benign growths that develop inside the uterine wall. If a woman has given birth and had difficult deliveries, issues such as incontinence or pelvic floor dysfunction may also arise. The American Cancer Society recommends that women have their first baseline mammogram between the ages of 35-40. After the age of 40, a mammogram needs to be an annual, consistent test so that if breast cancer is detected, the chances for a cure can be higher.
By age 40 and 50, a woman will begin to slowly transition into menopause. Other factors such as diet and exercise, bone density, osteoporosis, hormone therapy, and other important issues in women’s health may become a more prominent topic of discussion.
A Healthy Future
Women’s healthcare will always be an important topic. While there are known facts that are able to help guide a woman through the stages of her life, as well as knowing the conditions and diseases that may occur, the most important aspect is education. Every woman should educate herself and understand the various transitions and common gynecological conditions so that each phase of life is healthy, productive, and happy.
For more information about finding the right OBGYN doctor in Plano to serve your specific needs, please contact the Women’s Specialist of Plano for a list of services and locations.
Photo Credit: Creative Commons, Mike Baird
When to go to the gynecologist for the first time is a question that women have been asking for years. Once upon a time the answer to this question was around 21. But because women are becoming sexually active at progressively younger ages this question does not have a definitive answer. According to the gynecologists that make up the Plano, Texas based Women’s Specialists of Plano, “The most important concept to remember is that once you become sexually active, at whatever age, it is important to begin receiving regular pap smears. A pap smear test is the only way to be sure that you are free of STDs, ovarian, cervical or uterine cancer, or any other issues or underlying conditions that may occur with the reproductive organs.”
Your first OB appt and first Pap smear test is a common fear for every young woman. Oftentimes, the fear and anxiety can be so great that young women will purposely put off making that very first appointment. Most women are anxious about exposing their most intimate parts to a stranger and are also afraid that there may be an amount of pain associated with the checkup. Both of these fears are normal thoughts.
Drs. Murray Fox, Daryl Greebon, Jules Monier, Dennis Eisenberg and Jennifer Newton (Plano, Texas gynecologists) answered several questions for this Q and A designed to help you decide when the best time is to visit an OBGYN for the first time.
Q. First OB appt: When should I go to the gynecologist for the first time?
A. You should see your gynecologist for the first time upon becoming sexually active. Other reasons to visits the gynecologist would be:
- Abnormal bleeding outside of your normal menstrual cycle
- Menstrual periods become longer
- Menstrual periods become heavier and more painful
- An overall change or disruption in your menstrual period
- Severe pelvic cramps outside of your normal menstrual cycle
- Infections such as a bacterial infection or yeast infection that would cause itching, redness, burning or unusual discharge
Q. At what age should I have my first pap smear test?
A. The recommended age for a woman to receive her first pap smear is at age 21. Keep in mind that this age applies to a woman who is not sexually active, and has had regular, similar periods since the beginning of her menstruation.
Q. Why is it important to get annual pap smears?
A. It is important to return to your gynecologist annually because there are complications that arise without symptoms. This means that something could be wrong with your reproductive organs though you have no symptoms and no reason to believe so. The early stages of ovarian and cervical cancer will cause your pap smear to test abnormally; through a routine pelvic exam which is usually also included in these annual appointments, such abnormalities as tumors and cysts can also be diagnosed. Annual pap smears and pelvic exams allow your doctor to catch specific conditions at early stages so that proper treatment can be implemented and fertility can remain healthy. In addition, your gynecologist will check your breasts for any abnormal lumps during each annual visit. This is important because most women do not begin receiving regular mammograms until they are in their forties. Your gynecologist may be able to help you detect breast cancer in its early stages at your annual.
Q. Does it hurt to have a pap smear?
A. No, pap smears do not hurt. There will be a mild discomfort during the exam and for most women the first check-up will be uncomfortable. However, the majority of the discomfort is the result of the unknown. There should be no pain associated with your pap smear and all future visits will become easier each and every time.
Q. What does the gynecologist do during a pap smear?
A. Before the check-up a nurse will bring you a sheet and ask you to undress waist down. As your doctor comes into the room you will be asked to lie down and place your feet in stirrups which will keep your feet in place during the exam. Your doctor will then use a lubricated speculum to gently open your vagina. It is important to relax and take deep breaths during this part. The more relaxed you are the less uncomfortable you are likely to be. Your doctor will then use a long q-tip to swab the inside of your vagina. This swab is what is tested to determine if the cells are healthy, or abnormal. After your doctor swabs you using the speculum, the tool is removed and the exam will be finished.
Most women find that their anxiety about their first pap smear test disappears just as quickly as the actually procedure. But for some the anxiety returns every year when they go back for their annual. It is important to remember that your health should be rated much higher than your fear.
It is important to receive your checkup annually. But it is important to call your gynecologist sooner if:
- Your periods become irregular or cease
- Your periods become heavy
- You experience odor and/or discomfort
- If intercourse becomes painful
- If you think you may be pregnant
When the examination portion of your appointment is complete, your gynecologist will most likely meet with you and discuss a health follow-up with you and answer any questions you may have about such topics as birth control, etc. Finding the right OBGYN is just as important as going every year. Some women see the same doctor through their twenties, the birth of their children and into their mid-life years. If the time is now for you to find and visit an OBGYN, ask around to friends and family for a solid recommendation and make the appointment sooner than later.