How often do I need to go the gynecologist, and what should I get done there?
Many women go to the doctor only in the case of an emergency or when something is really bothering them. If this sounds familiar to you, it's time to change. Annual visits to the gynecologist are essential to a woman's good health. They are the ultimate preventative step a woman can take when facing the risks of breast and cervical cancer, STDs, and heart disease. Checking for something on a yearly basis greatly increases the chances of finding any problem in its early and often treatable stage.nnual visits are also a good idea because they give us a scheduled moment in which we can voice our health concerns, check our stats and gage the impact of any lifestyle changes we might have made in the last year. A woman should have her first gynecological exam either by the age of 18 or by the first time she has had intercourse, whichever comes first.
Every annual visit to the gynecologist must include the following for all women:
- Pap smear - A small sample of cells is removed from the end of cervix and is examined for any early signs of cancer, inflammation, or STD.
- Breast exam - Literally a hands on procedure where the doctor will search manually for any lumps, knots or tenderness. This same procedure should be done by a woman on herself monthly.
- Pelvic exam - This is an important means to locating ovarian cysts. The doctor/nurse will check for any lumps or tenderness.
- A woman's blood pressure, weight, and lungs should all be checked. A woman's doctor or nurse will probably also check her abdomen, ears, nose and throat.
- Mammogram - Women over the age of 40 should have a mammogram once every two years. Women over 50 should have one every year. The best time for a woman to schedule an annual exam is mid-cycle or about 2 weeks after the start of her last period.
- There is also the option to be tested for the following, if a woman has reason to believe she is at risk for a reproductive tract infection, STD, or the HIV virus.
- Screening for reproductive tract infections such as vaginal infections, or urinary tract infections.
- Screening for STDs.
- HIV testing. This is an often frightening test, but an essential one for women at risk!
A woman should also get the following tests and exams, either regularly or in response to her level of risk and her age:
- Dental checkup - At least once a year for all women.
- Eye doctor - Once a year for all women. This becomes especially important for older women, as conditions such as cataracts or glaucoma can be partially treated if caught early. Women who spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen should have their eyes checked at least once a year.
- Hemoglobin test - A test for anemia. Many women have iron deficiency anemia due to the blood loss associated with menstruation, and inadequate iron levels in their food. If a woman is at risk for anemia or is experiencing some of the symptoms, fatigue, irritability, shortness of breath.
- Cholesterol test - Every 3 to 5 years if there is no increased risk. But if a woman has history of heart disease in her family or a high cholesterol diet, she should get tested more often. These are recommended for all women over the age of 20.
Regular vaccines include the following:
- Tentanus every 10 years - A woman may be given a tetanus shot if she gets a deep, dirty wound, and was vaccinated more than five years before.
- Rubella - Any woman of child bearing age who would like to become pregnant should be vaccinated against Rubella. Contracting Rubella while pregnant can have a serious impact on the fetus.
- Pneumonia - For women over 65.
- Women traveling abroad need to ask their doctor or health care provider which vaccines are required for travel to specific countries. These vaccines vary according to what infectious diseases may be presenting problems in particular regions. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) is an excellent resource for country by country information on vaccines.
- The CDC recommends that all children receive the following basic vaccinations by the age of two. These vaccinations can be given at a doctor's office or clinic: 1 vaccination against measles/mumps/rubella (MMR), 4 vaccinations against Hib (a major cause of spinal meningitis), 3 vaccinations against polio, 4 vaccinations against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP), 3 vaccinations against hepatitis B, 1 vaccination against varicella, (chicken pox).