As a woman, it’s important to prioritize your health and wellness, and one key way to do so is by regularly visiting your gynecologist for screening tests and check-ups. In this article, we’ll discuss some important practices that can help ensure your gynecological health, including when to have screening tests like mammograms and pap smears, when to get the HPV vaccine, and other tips for women’s wellness.
Mammograms are screening tests that use X-rays to detect breast cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, women should have their first mammogram at age 40, with annual screenings recommended for women ages 45-54. After age 55, women can switch to having mammograms every two years, or they can continue to have annual screenings. If you have a family history of breast cancer, your doctor may recommend earlier or more frequent mammograms.
Pap smears are used to screen for cervical cancer. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that women start getting Pap smears at age 21, or within three years of becoming sexually active (whichever comes first). From ages 21-29, women should have a Pap smear every three years. After age 30, women can either continue with Pap smears every three years, or they can switch to having a Pap smear and HPV test every five years.
The HPV vaccine is a safe and effective way to prevent certain strains of human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer as well as other types of cancer. The vaccine is recommended for both boys and girls, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommending that children get the vaccine at age 11 or 12. The vaccine can be given as early as age 9 and is recommended for women up to age 26 and men up to age 21.
In addition to getting regular mammograms, performing a monthly self-breast exam can help you become familiar with your breasts and detect any changes or abnormalities. To perform a self-breast exam, follow these steps:
Stand in front of a mirror with your arms at your sides. Look for any changes in the size, shape, or contour of your breasts. Check for any dimpling, puckering, or redness of the skin.
- Raise your arms and look for the same changes.
- Lie down and use the pads of your fingers to feel for lumps or thickening in your breasts. Use a circular motion, covering the entire breast and armpit area.
- Repeat the process on the other breast.
If you notice any changes or abnormalities, be sure to talk to your doctor or gynecologist.
Other Screening Tests:
In addition to mammograms and Pap smears, there are several other screening tests that can help detect gynecological conditions or diseases. Here are a few to be aware of:
Bone Density Test: Women over age 65, as well as younger women with certain risk factors, may need a bone density test to screen for osteoporosis.
- STI Testing: Depending on your sexual history, your doctor may recommend getting tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV.
- Ultrasound: An ultrasound can be used to detect various gynecological conditions, including ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids.
- Colposcopy: If you have an abnormal Pap smear, your doctor may recommend a colposcopy, which is a procedure that uses a special instrument to examine the cervix for any abnormalities.
Other Tips for Women’s Wellness:
In addition to these screening tests, there are several other steps you can take to prioritize your gynecological health and overall wellness. Here are a few tips:
- Practice safe sex: Using condoms and other forms of protection can help reduce your risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unwanted pregnancy.
- Stay active: Regular exercise can help improve your mood, boost your energy, and reduce your risk of certain health conditions.
- Eat a balanced diet: Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of chronic diseases.
- Manage stress: Stress can take a toll on your physical and mental health, so finding healthy ways to manage stress (such as through exercise, meditation, or therapy) is important.
- Quit smoking: Smoking is a major risk factor for many health conditions, including cancer, so quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health.
- Practice good hygiene: Be sure to clean your genitals with mild soap and water, and avoid using any harsh or scented products that could irritate the area.
- Get enough sleep: Getting enough sleep is important for overall health and wellness, including gynecological health.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine: Excessive alcohol and caffeine intake can have negative effects on gynecological health, so it’s important to consume these substances in moderation.
- Stay up-to-date on vaccinations: In addition to the HPV vaccine, be sure to stay up-to-date on other vaccinations recommended for women, such as the flu vaccine and the shingles vaccine.
- Consider hormonal birth control: Hormonal birth control can help regulate periods and reduce the risk of certain gynecological conditions, such as ovarian and endometrial cancer.
By following these practices and staying up-to-date on screening tests, you can help maintain good gynecological health and overall wellness. If you have any concerns or questions, be sure to talk to your doctor or gynecologist.
About The Author
Dr. Krisca is a highly-educated and skilled physician who has obtained a BS Public Health degree from the University of the Philippines Manila and a Doctor of Medicine degree from the De La Salle Medical Health Sciences Institute. She is a licensed physician and also a Registered Medical Technologist. She has received additional training in Hemodialysis for Non-Nephro Physicians on duty and has completed online courses in related fields like depression in populations from John Hopkins University and positive psychiatry from The University of Sydney. Currently, she is pursuing a Master of International Health in the University of the Philippines.
Dr. Krisca is known for her outstanding skills and compassionate approach to healthcare that make a positive impact on people’s lives. Through her passion for healthcare, she hopes to make a difference in the world and help people lead healthier, happier lives.