River Oaks Gynecology and Aesthetics

Not Time for a Pap? You Should Still See Your Gynecologist This Year!

Cervical cancer screenings were once performed yearly for most women. In recent years, the recommendation for these routine tests changed. Now, patients may only need to have a Pap every 3 to 5 years. This doesn’t diminish the benefits of continuing to see a board-certified gynecologist every year. Annual gynecological exams provide women with important data and education that is specific to their health and wellness.

Many of the conditions for which women are susceptible, including cervical and ovarian cancer, breast cancer, and HPV (human papillomavirus), offer few early warning signs of their development. The primary way for a woman to know if one of these conditions has occurred is through specific tests. In addition to screening for common diseases, a gynecologist can also counsel patients on sexual health issues, vaccinations, emotional health, and weight management.

It is recommended that annual gynecological exams begin around age 15. Early GYN visits rarely involve pelvic exams. They are more focused on consulting with the patient about general health and reproductive health issues, including menstruation, breast health and how to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases.

Pelvic exams and Pap screening typically do not begin until about age 21. For this reason, the two are often considered complementary. It is important to differentiate between the two to understand why yearly pelvic exams are necessary even when Pap screenings are not.

The Pap smear is a test that obtains a sampling of cells from the cervix. This screening observes cells for signs of abnormalities that indicate cervical cancer. A pelvic exam extends beyond the cervix to assess a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is also a common women’s health concern because this disease does not offer signs such as pain until the disease has advanced.

Additional Important Screenings for Women

A gynecologist is an important healthcare provider with specific education and training focused on the various stages of women’s health. Women aged 35 and older may be advised to undergo an initial mammogram to establish a baseline of breast health during a time at which hormones may begin changing. After age 40, women are encouraged to have a mammogram every year. Additionally, the gynecologist performs a manual breast exam and can demonstrate for patients how to conduct the self-exams that should be performed monthly. As women approach menopause, certain lab tests may be ordered to evaluate bone health, hormone levels, and more.

We’re here to support you in maintaining vitality and wellness. To schedule your annual exam with your gynecologist, call our Houston office at 713.955.6560.