Most of us cringe at the thought of going to the gynecologist. It feels so invasive and undignified. Lying there on your back with your legs spread open for a doctor to prod your lady parts sounds like a fun day out for sure! But as uncomfortable as it is it is a vital awkward visit that every woman has to make.
When should you go?
Your first annual exam should occur by age 18, but there may be other reasons for a check up;
- Not having a menstrual period by age 16
- Vaginal bleeding that lasts longer than 7 to 8 days
- Any menstrual abnormalities
- Pain in your lower abdomen or genital areas
- Sores, bumps or cuts in genital area
- Unusual discharge in the vaginal or genital areas
- Breast abnormalities
- Sexual activity of any kind
Breast exams can begin at age 19.The Doctor will gently palpate your breasts looking for lumps and look for any abnormalities in size or shape or changes in the skin of the breast or the nipples. Breast exams are used along with Mammograms to test for breast cancer. According to the national cancer institute, screening mammography can help reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer among women ages 40 to 74. The Doctor can also teach you how to do a self exam.
Cervical cancer screening or Pap smear (Papanicolaou test)
Screening should be done from age 21.You should have a test about every 3 years, if you are over 30 you should have both Pap smear and HVP and if both are normal you only need to go every 5 years. According to Cancer research UK, Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer worldwide for females, and the seventh most common cancer overall. This test can detect abnormal cervical cells early enough so that the cells do not become cancer .It can be easily avoided if detected early therefore a trip to the gynecologist could save your life!
If you are in a monogamous long term relationship you have little or no risk at contracting a STD. But if you are sexually active with more than one partner you will need to visit the gynecologist more regularly as you could be at risk for sexually transmitted diseases such as HVP (Human Papillomavirus). The symptoms can be silent and undetectable unless you visit your Doctor.Testing for Chlamydia and gonorrhea is recommended for all sexually active young women up to age 25 annually. You can also have a HIV test if you ask or the gynecologist thinks you are at risk.
Remember no question is too embarrassing. Be honest with your gynecologist so that they can help you in the best way possible. So Find a Gynecologist you are comfortable with. Keep track of your monthly cycle, and come prepared with all your questions. Know all your medical history and try to relax. Just a 15 minute encounter with your gynecologist could save your life and could be the most empowering thing you could do for yourself.