A Pap smear is one of the most effective tools an OBGYN has to be able to detect the early signs of cervical cancer. During this quick procedure, your doctor will collect cells from the cervix, which will then be tested to check for any abnormal changes in the cells. Most women begin getting Pap smears by the time they reach 21 years old. If your Pap smear results came back abnormal, relax. We know you may be concerned but there are several reasons your test results may have come back abnormal.
What can cause abnormal Pap smear results?
While there are many causes, you might be surprised to learn the something as simple as a cervical or vaginal infection could cause enough changes to the cervical cells to produce an abnormal Pap. In this case we may either monitor the infection to see if it goes away on its own or we may decide to provide you with medication. Other causes of an abnormal Pap smear include:
- Herpes (HSV-2)
- Recent sexual activity
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Dysplasia (abnormal cells; can be pre-cancerous)
It’s important to specifically address HPV, which is an STD that has over 100 different strains. The body will clear some strains of HPV over time while others may cause genital warts or eventually lead to cervical cancer. If we find unusual-looking cells during your test then we may recommend undergoing an HPV test.
How is an abnormal Pap smear treated?
The only thing Pap smear results tell your gynecologist is that there are abnormal cells within the cervix. This is only a test; this is not a diagnosis. What this means is that your gynecologist will need to perform a further evaluation that could include another Pap smear, a colposcopy (a simple procedure that allows your OBGYN to look into the cervix using a microscope) or a biopsy (to remove and test cervical tissue). This is something your doctor will discuss with you beforehand.
An abnormal Pap test is actually fairly common and most of the time it is not serious. If we suspect that infection is the cause we may need to do further testing to diagnose inflammation, a yeast infection, trichomoniasis, or herpes. Some women may require a repeat Pap smear if their results came back “unsatisfactory” due to recent sexual activity or using vaginal douches prior to the test. Women who have an abnormal Pap result will need to come back in a few months for additional testing.
Your annual women’s checkup is an important part of maintaining your health. Is it time for your appointment? Call your gynecologist today.
If you’ve just found out you are pregnant then you are probably getting ready to schedule your first prenatal care visit with your OBGYN. It’s important that you find an OBGYN that you trust, as they will be with you throughout your pregnancy providing care, monitoring the health of you and your baby, and offering important recommendations about your health, specific testing you should undergo and even creating your ideal birth plan.
If you aren’t dealing with a high-risk pregnancy then you won’t need to come in for prenatal care as often in the very beginning. As your pregnancy advances you’ll need to come in more regularly. If you are between the ages of 18 and 35 years old and healthy then you’ll need to come in for prenatal care about every 4 to 6 weeks for the first 32 weeks of your pregnancy. Once you reach the 32ndweek then you’ll need to come in every 2-3 weeks until the 37thweek. From the 37thweek until delivery you will need to see your obstetrician once a week.
The first prenatal visit is often the longest one. During your first visit you can expect to provide detailed information about you and your family’s medical history. You will also undergo a thorough physical exam, as well as urine and blood tests to look for any health problems. We will also measure your height, weight, heart rate and blood pressure and perform a breast exam and pelvic exam.
If necessary, your gynecologist may also choose to perform a Pap smear, STI testing, and other screening tests (e.g. anemia; diabetes). Depending on how far along you are, an ultrasound may also be performed during your first visit to determine how far along you are and your expected due date. We may even be able to listen to the fetal heartbeat.
This checkup is also a time to ask us any questions or address any concerns you may have about your pregnancy, from what foods to avoid to what prenatal vitamins you should take. We can offer up advice to help you have the healthiest pregnancy possible.
It’s important that you schedule your first prenatal visit as soon as you get a positive home pregnancy test. Better yet, if you are planning on becoming pregnant it’s a good idea to see your gynecologist prior to getting pregnant for pre-pregnancy care.
Menopause is a natural event that will occur in all women at some point as they age. Menopause occurs when menstruation stops and fertility ends. Once a woman has missed her period for one year she is considered menopausal. While the age at which a woman reaches menopause varies, it’s common for this transitional period to occur between the ages of 45 and 55.
For some women, menopause causes little to no symptoms; however, other women may experience:
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Memory problems
- Mood swings
- Night sweats
- Weight gain
- Dry skin
- Decreased libido
Some of these symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats will go away after menopause. To reduce the frequency and severity of their symptoms, it’s important that menopausal women maintain a healthy lifestyle.
When should I see my gynecologist?
No matter your age, you should visit your gynecologist for routine checkups ever year. During these visits it’s important that you ask any questions or address any concerns you might have regarding your health. Your OBGYN is able to address everything from birth control options and fertility treatments to hormone replacement therapy.
The type of symptoms you are experiencing as well as their severity will determine whether it’s worth visiting your gynecologist or your general practitioner to rule out other conditions that could be responsible for these symptoms. As we mentioned earlier, some women go through menopause and don’t experience any issues; however, women who are struggling to get their symptoms under control should talk to their gynecologist.
If you are experiencing symptoms of menopause but you’re under 40 years old you should also schedule a doctor’s appointment to determine what’s causing your symptoms. Hormonal issues and imbalances could be to blame and they should be treated as soon as possible.
What can be done to ease symptoms of menopause?
Once a woman reaches perimenopause (the stage right before menopause) she may start to notice a heavier or irregular menstrual cycle. Sometimes your gynecologist may prescribe birth control pills at this time to treat these issues. Birth control may also alleviate vaginal dryness and hot flashes.
Hormone therapy is the standard treatment when it comes to managing menopause symptoms. For example, estrogen therapy has been know to treat hot flashes and vaginal dryness and can be administered as a cream, patch, or pill.
During menopause your gynecologist may also recommend getting a blood test to check your hormone levels. Hormone therapy isn’t right for every woman. Women who have a high cholesterol, gallbladder, or liver disease, a history of blood clots or breast cancer shouldn’t undergo hormone therapy. In this case, non-hormonal treatment options such as prescription medications like gabapentin may be able to treat mood swings, night sweats and other common symptoms of menopause.
If you are experiencing menopause symptoms it’s important to consult your gynecologist. When you come into our office we can help you determine the best methods for getting your symptoms under control. Call us today to schedule an appointment.
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.
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