A weekly column addressing your most sought-after health questions, answered by Harbin Clinic’s expert healthcare professionals
Question: What should I make sure to discuss with my gynecologist at my exam?
Dr. Marc Dean, MD: Scheduling an annual well-woman exam is an important part of maintaining a woman’s overall health. This visit will include essential preventative screenings, physical exams, and an opportunity to discuss your health and lifestyle.
If you haven’t visited with your gynecologist for some time, your doctor may ask about your exercise routine, nutrition, smoking habits, alcohol consumption, sexual practices, menstrual cycles, as well as family history. They’ll also perform a physical exam of the breasts and pelvis.
Preventative screenings for breast cancer and gynecological cancers, such as ovarian, uterine and cervical, are essential for women of all ages, and Pap smears alone do not detect these. January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and every year, nearly 14,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer. Receiving the HPV vaccine and having regular screenings and tests at your well-woman exam can help prevent this cancer and allow for early detection of pre-cancerous cells.
As a part of regular screening, women between the ages of 21 and 65 should have a Pap smear every 3 years and HPV testing for those ages 30 to 65.
The HPV vaccine helps protect against HPV viruses and the development of pre-cancerous cells in the cervix. If you have not yet had your vaccine and are under age 26, you can still receive it.
The providers at the Harbin Clinic Women’s Center are here to care for every stage of a woman’s life, from adolescence through menopause and beyond.