Posts for category: Women's Healthcare
Have you been screened for STI's, or Sexually Transmitted Infections? Surprisingly, most Americans do not prioritize this important health testing. Plus, many health care providers do not routinely offer testing for STI's of any kind; so, patients must ask them about it, says the American Sexual Health Association.
How often should you be screened for STIs?
The short answer is that everyone from ages 13 to 65 should receive a baseline screening for HIV, or the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, states the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). STIs, including HIV, often show no symptoms but can cause serious health issues over time. Also, says the CDC, routine testing, treatment, and follow-up limits transmission of disease from sexual partner to partner. So, all adults should ask their doctors for testing once a year. In fact, they should insist upon it.
Who is at risk for an STI?
Potentially anyone is at risk. However, some populations definitely are more prone to infection. They include:
- Male homosexuals
- People who have several sexual partners
- Women under the age of 25
- Sex workers
- Individuals who have unprotected sex
Transmission of STIs is easier than most people realize. Oral, anal, or vaginal sex can spread the microbes or insect vectors responsible for these often dangerous and hard to treat diseases. While many people believe they cannot ever have a Sexually Transmitted Infection, WebMD says the vast majority of Americans actually have had an active form some kind of STI.
What do tests look for?
Screening tests look for:
- HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus
- HPV, or Human Papillomavirus, which is linked to oral and cervical cancer
- Hepatitis B and C, caused by viruses
- Trichomoniasis, a parasite infection
Tests are simple, utilizing a urine sample, blood draw, or swab of oral or genital tissues.
Don't ignore the obvious or not so obvious
STIs can impact your health and interpersonal relationships. So, be sure you know where you stand. Women, talk to your OB/GYN about testing, and men, do the same with your primary care physician. It's what you do not know that can truly harm you and your loved ones.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. According to the CDC, approximately 79 million Americans are infected with HPV. There are many strains of this infection, some of which can cause cancer. This is why it’s important that you visit your gynecologist once a year for annual checkups and screenings.
Symptoms of HPV
Unfortunately, men and women can have HPV and never know, since symptoms aren’t common with this STD. Some strains of HPV cause genital warts, a cluster of bumps that can be found on the vulva or cervix of a woman and may develop on the penis or scrotum of a man. Once infected, genital warts can appear as early as 3 months after exposure; however, it can sometimes take longer.
Since high-risk HPV (HPV that causes cervical cancer) doesn’t often cause symptoms this means that the best action you can take to protect your health is to visit your gynecologist once a year for an annual exam. During this exam, your OBGYN can perform a physical examination, as well as a PAP smear and HPV test to check for changes in cervical cells that could be a warning sign of cancer or pre-cancer.
While there is no test to determine if you have HPV or not, there are tests available that can check for cervical cancer that is most likely caused by HPV. These screenings usually begin around the age of 30. Of course, if you develop vaginal bumps, sores or other changes it’s important that you see your doctor right away.
During a Pap smear, your gynecologist will scrape cells from the cervix and send them to a lab, where they will look for any cellular changes. A Pap smear only takes a couple of minutes to perform and those who’ve never had abnormal results may only need to get a Pap smear every three years. Those who have had positive results in the past may need to get tested more regularly.
Luckily, there is now a vaccine available to protect against certain types of HPV, particularly the strains that are the greatest risk for developing cervical cancer. Before recently, the vaccine had only been approved for people ages 9 to 25 but now the FDA has approved the vaccine for adults ages 27 to 45. These vaccines only work on patients who’ve never had HPV before; this is why it’s important to vaccinate teens early on to protect against certain strains of high-risk HPV.
Is it time for your annual women’s appointment? If you are interested in getting tested for HPV, you can easily schedule an HPV screening to be performed during your next checkup.
Endometriosis is a female condition in which tissue that's similar to uterine lining begins growing on the outside of the uterus, often affecting the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and pelvic tissue. During your cycle, the endometrial tissue then becomes thicker until it breaks down and bleeds, and due to how this tissue can’t be removed from the body, it gets trapped. Over time, this can lead to scar tissue (known as adhesions) on the reproductive organs.
This condition affects as many as 11 percent of US woman between the ages of 15 and 44, most often affecting women in their 30s and 40s. This condition can also make it more challenging for women to get pregnant.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
The classic symptom of endometriosis is abdominal pain that is usually worse during your menstrual cycle. While a lot of women complain of some abdominal discomfort during menstruation, women with endometriosis often complain of very painful periods, which may even radiate to the lower back.
Women with endometriosis may also experience very heavy periods or breakthrough bleeding (bleeding between cycles). You may also notice pelvic pain during sex or with bowel movements, as well as bloating, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, or fatigue.
All symptoms will vary from woman to woman. For instance, some women may have very severe symptoms but only have milder cases of endometriosis, while those with more severe cases may experience little-to-no-discomfort. Everyone is different; however, if you are experiencing new, persistent, or worsening pelvic pain, it’s important that you talk with your gynecologist.
If you are trying to conceive you may also find it more difficult to do so. Sometimes women don’t often find out that they have endometriosis until they visit their OBGYN to discuss problems getting pregnant.
How is endometriosis diagnosed?
During your evaluation, your OBGYN will ask you questions about the symptoms that you are experiencing. From there, a couple of tests will be performed in order to pinpoint specific signs and symptoms of endometriosis. These tests include a traditional pelvic exam or an ultrasound. In some instances, an MRI exam or a laparoscopy (a minor surgical procedure that allows a doctor to examine the inside of the abdomen and uterus) may be recommended to make a definitive diagnosis.
How is this condition treated?
Since there is no cure for endometriosis the goal of treatment is to manage your symptoms. As with most conditions, we will recommend more conservative treatment options at first to see if they are effective. Common treatment options include,
- Pain medications (either over-the-counter or prescription-strength)
- Hormone therapy (e.g. birth control pills; progestin therapy)
- Fertility treatment (for women who are having trouble conceiving)
- Laparoscopic surgery to remove excess endometrial tissue
If you are experiencing symptoms of endometriosis, it’s important that you talk to a gynecologist as soon as possible.
Affecting over 80 percent of women by the time they reach age 50, fibroids are abnormal uterine growths that can cause great discomfort, heavy periods, and abdominal pain. Luckily, there is a number of treatment options available to the millions of women who suffer from this condition. Read on to learn more about fibroids and how your local OBGYN can help ease your symptoms!
As mentioned above fibroids are typically non-cancerous tumors that develop within the uterine line. Although it is officially unclear on what exactly causes them to grow, experts generally agree that fibroid growth is influenced by a few factors, including hormone production, family history, a history of pregnancy, and being overweight.
While some people with fibroids report feeling no effect from their presence, other women report a range of different symptoms, such as:
Heavy and extended menstrual flow
Pelvis and lower back pain
If you suspect that you may have fibroids, schedule an appointment with your local OBGYN to undergo a pelvic exam.
Once your gynecologist has discovered the presence of fibroids, a specific treatment plan can be crafted specifically for you based on your age, your fibroid size, and the overall status of your health. Some possibilities for mild fibroids include:
Applying heat to the areas that are experiencing cramps
Losing weight, if you are overweight
Dietary changes, such as avoiding meat and high-calorie foods
For more serious cases, hormone regulating medications such as Lupron will cause your estrogen to drop, and thus cause menstrual cessation and fibroid shrinkage. If a patient’s fibroids are very large, a hysterectomy may even be in order.
Concerned? Give Us a Call!
If you suspect that you may have fibroids, don’t wait for the condition to get worse—contact your local gynecologist to seek relief and boost your health!
Why are Pap Smears Necessary?
If you are age 21 or older, you may be asked to get a pap smear. It’s also called a pap test, and it’s a common procedure used to test for cervical cancer in women. It is a routine procedure performed in the office during which cells are collected from your cervix.
Cervical cancer is a serious condition which often has no symptoms initially, until it’s in the later stages. A pap smear is a vital tool in detecting cervical cancer in the early stages, when treatment outcomes are much better. A pap smear can also find changes in your cervical cells which may indicate cancer developing at some point in the future.
When you reach age 21 or older, your doctor may recommend a pap test, usually performed along with a pelvic examination. In some cases, the pap test is combined with an HPV (human papillomavirus) which is a sexually transmitted condition known to cause cervical cancer.
The pap smear recommendations for healthy women are:
- The first pap smear at age 21
- A pap smear every 3 years if you are ages 21 to 65
- A pap smear every 5 years if combined with an HPV test and you are age 30 or older
Having more frequent pap smears may be indicated if you have risk factors, including:
- An HIV infection
- An abnormal pap smear showing precancerous cells
- A history of smoking
- A weakened immune system due to organ transplant, chemotherapy, or corticosteroid use
To get ready for a pap smear, there are certain guidelines you should follow. Remember to:
- Avoid having sexual intercourse, using a douche, or any vaginal medications or spermicidal products including foams, creams, or gels for at least 2 days before your test.
- Avoid scheduling a pap smear during your menstrual period
A pap smear is a necessary part of protecting women’s health. The test is important because it is the only definitive way to diagnose cervical cancer in the early stages. Early diagnosis is critical to early treatment, which can lead to a better outcome for you.