There is so much more to the annual doctor visit than Pap smears. Taking the extra time to ask your doctor questions about your body will put you on the path to a healthier you. Breast cancer screening Breast cancer is the most common non-skin cancer in women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Screening for breast cancer saves lives.
  • How often should I get a mammogram? For routine screening, your doctor may recommend screening once a year as recommended by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) or every other year as recommended by the United States Preventive Screening Task Force (USPSTF). If you have had an abnormal mammogram in the past, you may require more frequent screenings.
  • Do I need a breast ultrasound or MRI? Many younger women have dense breast tissue that can make mammograms harder to interpret. Your doctor may talk to you about using one of these other imaging tests for a closer look.
  • Should I do self-breast exams? Self-breast exams have not been shown to decrease breast cancer rates and are no longer recommended. You should still be aware of any obvious changes in your breasts (i.e. lumps, nipple discharge, pain) and bring them to your doctor’s attention.
Other female cancer screening
  • Do I need a Pap smear to look for cervical cancer? If you are between 21 and 65 years old and have a cervix, the answer is yes. ACOG and USPSTF recommend screening every 3 years or every 5 years if human papilloma virus (HPV) testing is done with your Pap smear after you turn 30. Ask your doctor about HPV testing as a way to space out your exams. More frequent Pap smears will be recommended for anyone who has abnormal results.
  • Can I check for ovarian cancer? There is no recommended screening test. If you have symptoms such as abdominal bloating or pain discuss them with your doctor to decide if testing is needed.
  • Is bleeding after menopause normal? No. This could be a sign of uterine cancer. Please call your doctor immediately.
Sexual health Many women are hesitant to talk about their sexual health but it is an important part of our identity. Symptoms could be a sign of infection, emotional problems, or a number of physical ailments. If you have any of the following symptoms, do not hesitate to talk to your doctor about them.
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Irregular periods
  • Pelvic pain
  • Pain with sexual intercourse
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Vaginal dryness
Your annual gynecology exam is not to be feared. It is an opportunity for women to take care of themselves and learn more about staying healthy. Take full advantage of all its offerings.