Women balancing work, family, and social commitments know it better than anyone that time flies. When you're busy caring for everyone else and penciling in commitments to an already-full calendar, remembering to visit your ob/gyn once a year can often fall through the cracks. But it's important to remember that a yearly visit with your ob/gyn is crucial to maintaining your health. The goal of these annual health screenings is to find diseases early, while they're easier to treat.
Below, Dr. Courtney Hammerel
, ob/gyn at the Main Line Health Center in Broomall
, explains the important health tests women shouldn't be putting off.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends women get a Pap test every three years to screen for cervical cancer at age 21 or three years after their first sexual intercourse. If you have a history of cancer, particularly cervical cancer, in your family or have had an abnormal Pap test before, your doctor may suggest getting them more often. Depending on your sexual history and number of sexual partners, talk to your doctor about how often you should receive a Pap test after age 30.
Women in their 20s and 30s should visit their gynecologist for an annual clinical breast exam. In between these yearly exams, you should also be conducting a breast self-exam every month. Although your doctor will have more experience in detecting abnormalities, monthly self-exams can alert you to any changes early on.
Testing for sexually transmitted diseases is important for women age 25 and younger who are sexually active, as well as for women in their 20s and 30s who have a new sexual partner. During your yearly visit, your ob/gyn will perform a DNA probe and run blood tests to check for gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, hepatitis, and HIV. Left untreated, these diseases can cause problems later in life, including infertility.
Unlike breast self-exams, pelvic exams aren't something you can perform without your ob/gyn. During your annual pelvic exam, your ob/gyn will examine your pelvic area, including your cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes. In addition to looking for infection or abnormalities, they may also ask you questions about your sexual history.
In addition to these tests, you should also ask for a blood pressure and body mass index (BMI) test during your annual visit to the gynecologist. These are important heart health indicators.
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to find a Main Line Health ob/gyn in your area.