Posts for category: Women's Health Care
Why are Pap Smears Necessary?
If you are age 21 or older, you may be asked to get a pap smear. It’s also called a pap test, and it’s a common procedure used to test for cervical cancer in women. It is a routine procedure performed in the office during which cells are collected from your cervix.
Cervical cancer is a serious condition which often has no symptoms initially, until it’s in the later stages. A pap smear is a vital tool in detecting cervical cancer in the early stages, when treatment outcomes are much better. A pap smear can also find changes in your cervical cells which may indicate cancer developing at some point in the future.
When you reach age 21 or older, your doctor may recommend a pap test, usually performed along with a pelvic examination. In some cases, the pap test is combined with an HPV (human papillomavirus) which is a sexually transmitted condition known to cause cervical cancer.
The pap smear recommendations for healthy women are:
- The first pap smear at age 21
- A pap smear every 3 years if you are ages 21 to 65
- A pap smear every 5 years if combined with an HPV test and you are age 30 or older
Having more frequent pap smears may be indicated if you have risk factors, including:
- An HIV infection
- An abnormal pap smear showing precancerous cells
- A history of smoking
- A weakened immune system due to organ transplant, chemotherapy, or corticosteroid use
To get ready for a pap smear, there are certain guidelines you should follow. Remember to:
- Avoid having sexual intercourse, using a douche, or any vaginal medications or spermicidal products including foams, creams, or gels for at least 2 days before your test.
- Avoid scheduling a pap smear during your menstrual period
A pap smear is a necessary part of protecting women’s health. The test is important because it is the only definitive way to diagnose cervical cancer in the early stages. Early diagnosis is critical to early treatment, which can lead to a better outcome for you.
The Importance of a Pap Smear
A pap smear, also known as a Pap test or cervical smear, is a routine procedure done at your gynecologist’s office to detect any irregularities in and on the cervix. The name comes from an abbreviation of the inventor’s name, Greek doctor Georgios Papanikolaou, and this test has been performed since 1923. It is currently the most common form of cervical screening in the United States.
What Are Pap Smears?
Pap smears are procedures done in-office and are performed by a doctor on an exam table. The vaginal opening is expanded with a tool called a speculum, and cells are then collected from the outside of the cervix using a tool called a spatula, which is very different from the one you may have in your kitchen. This procedure only takes a few minutes, and is very important for female health. Some patients report mild cramping during or immediately after the test, but it is usually very brief.
The collected cells are transferred to a glass slide and are examined under a microscope. The reason for this test is to identify any pre-cancerous conditions, most of which are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). These results can usually be used to diagnose other cervical problems and can take a week or two to come back.
A Pap smear is recommended for women to get every three years starting at age 21 until 65, barring any pre-existing conditions or any atypical results; those cases may call for more frequent testing. Regular Pap smears can reduce fatalities caused by cervical cancer very significantly, granted that patients with abnormal results follow their doctors’ treatment recommendations.
Be sure to stay up to date with your Pap smears and call your gynecologist with any questions!
As you might imagine, women’s bones are smaller than men’s, which puts women at a risk for developing osteoporosis, a chronic condition that causes a loss of bone density and can leave women prone to fractures. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, 80 percent of Americans with osteoporosis are women and half of women over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis.
Why does osteoporosis mostly affect women? During childbearing years, your body produces estrogen, a hormone that is not only implemental in your reproductive and sexual health but also serves to protect your bones; however, as women approach menopause their estrogen production decreases drastically, which makes women prone to fractured and broken bones.
Fortunately, your gynecologist and women’s health team are instrumental in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of osteoporosis. Bone density is influenced by many factors including hormone levels, lifestyle, nutrition, medications, health problems, and genetics. Common risk factors include:
- Family history
- History of broken bones/fractures
- Poor nutrition
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Lack of calcium or other vitamins in your diet
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Low body mass index (BMI) and weight
The good news about osteoporosis is that it can be prevented through proper screenings and medications/therapies used to slow the progress of osteoporosis. Your initial screening will provide the information you need to help you and your gynecological team make an informed decision about the type of treatment options available to you. An X-ray is the most common diagnostic tool for checking the density level of your bones.
Getting an osteoporosis screening is highly recommended for all postmenopausal women (women 65 years old or older). If a woman is at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, she may want to consider getting screened even earlier.
Osteoporosis treatment will include lifestyle changes along with medications/treatments. Simple everyday measures you can take to lessen your chances of bone fractures include:
- Making sure you get enough Vitamin D and calcium in your diet
- Reducing alcohol consumption
- Exercise regularly (include both cardio and strength training)
- Quit smoking
There are also a variety of different prescription medications on the market (also known as bisphosphonates) that can aid in preventing bone loss. Along with medications, your gynecologist may also recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which will supply your body with the estrogen it needs to both prevent and treat osteoporosis.
Coming in to see your OBGYN once a year is an important part of every woman’s health. Even if you aren’t experiencing symptoms these examinations could prevent issues from happening and can allow your doctor to detect problems early on when problems are often much easier to treat. If we detect any suspicious growths or other symptoms during your pelvic examination then we may recommend getting a biopsy. There are different diagnostic biopsies that we may recommend depending on the symptoms and issues you are experiencing.
This biopsy is often performed if a Pap test or other diagnostic test detected abnormal cells in the cervix. In some cases, if you’ve been diagnosed with human papillomavirus (HPV) you may also require a cervical biopsy since some types of HPV can cause cervical cancer. A cervical biopsy may also help determine if the abnormal cells are potentially precancerous.
There are a few different ways that a cervical biopsy can be performed. Of course, no matter what technique is used, a cervical biopsy will need to remove a sample of the abnormal tissue for testing. Cervical biopsies are performed by a punch, cone or endocervical curettage method.
Just like a cervical biopsy removes a sample of tissue from the cervix, this specific biopsy will remove a sample from the endometrium (the lining of the uterus). This biopsy may also be one way that your gynecologist can check hormone levels that can affect the health of your endometrium. This type of biopsy may also be recommended if you are experiencing irregular, heavy or long-term bleeding and aren’t sure of the cause.
This procedure is a great way for your OBGYN to check the health of your cervix, vagina, and vulva to look for any signs or symptoms of the disease. Just like with a cervical biopsy, a colposcopy may be recommended if your Pap test came back abnormal. During your colposcopy, a small sample of tissue will be removed and examined. This diagnostic procedure is a great way to detect and diagnose certain issues such as cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix), precancerous tissue or genital warts.
If you have questions about your upcoming biopsy or if you are experiencing any symptoms or changes then it’s time you visited an OBGYN who can help you.
Have you been diagnosed with cervicitis? If so, chances are pretty good that you have questions about this condition. This condition, which causes inflammation of the cervix, is surprisingly common. There are many reasons why someone might develop cervicitis:
- A sexually transmitted disease (e.g. gonorrhea; genital herpes)
- Allergies (e.g. latex)
- Injury to the cervix
- Irritation (e.g. from diaphragm)
- A bacterial or hormonal imbalance
- Cancer (Rare)
Some women may have cervicitis but never even know that they have it. Some women with cervicitis may experience abdominal pain, yellow or gray discharge, vaginal itching and bleeding, painful urination or pain during sex.
What puts you at risk for cervicitis? While any woman can develop this condition you are more at risk for developing this inflammatory problem if you have multiple sexual partners, have sex without a condom or if you’ve had cervicitis in the past.
A simple swab test of the cervix is often all that’s needed to diagnose this problem. If you’ve been diagnosed with cervicitis, or if you suspect that you might have it, this is something that needs to be treated right away. Cervicitis can actually spread to other areas such as the fallopian tubes or uterus.
Cervicitis will often get worse if left untreated and can lead to other more serious complications such as infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). If you are pregnant, this condition could also put your unborn baby at risk. This is why it’s so important that you visit your OBGYN if you notice any symptoms or changes in your vaginal health that have you concerned.
Luckily, cervicitis can easily be treated with antibiotics such as doxycycline or azithromycin. Before medication is prescribed your OBGYN will also test for any sexually transmitted infections that may be causing this infection. If a sexually transmitted disease is also detected then we will need to treat that infection accordingly with further medication.
If you are pregnant, doxycycline will not be prescribed. In this situation, you will most likely be prescribed azithromycin or a cephalosporin. Again, the medicine your gynecologist decides to prescribe will be based on the cause of your cervicitis.
If in doubt, turn to your OBGYN to address all of your questions and concerns regarding cervicitis or the symptoms you are experiencing.