By Dr. Meridith Farrow, MD, FACOG
Reports in the news about the annual well-woman exam are confusing! Do women need an examination every year? Is a Pap needed every year? The answers are YES and MAYBE! The annual well-woman visit is an excellent opportunity for counseling concerning a healthy lifestyle, minimizing health risks, and the physical exam that is done assesses overall health. The collection of the Pap is individualized based on the woman’s age and history.
Abnormal Bleeding Is the Most Common Symptom of Uterine Cancer
Women over the age of 55 are more likely than younger women to be diagnosed with uterine cancer. Younger women, however, can be at increased risk in certain situations. Obesity, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and diabetes are among the conditions that increase the risk. Bleeding that occurs after menopause, heavy bleeding with periods or bleeding in between periods should all be evaluated by a Gynecologist. Early detection is the key to keeping women healthy!
New Pap Guidelines May Miss Some Cervical Cancers in Young Women
Over the last 30 years, the cervical cancer death rate has gone down by more than 50% because of the Pap test. The Pap test finds changes in the cervix before cancer develops. Cervical cancer is one of the most preventable cancers today! Yet many women do not have this testing done. Changes in Pap test guidelines are causing some women to think that the Pap test is no longer necessary. Studies are underway investigating the impact of the new Pap guidelines. Many doctors make the Pap test a requirement for prescribing birth control, therefore many women stop going in for their tests after they have had tubal sterilization or no longer need birth control. Many women do not realize that the risk of developing cervical cancer is still present as they age.
The Pap Test Is Still Necessary for Some Women, and It Saves Lives!
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all women have an annual visit with a healthcare provider capable of performing a pelvic examination if needed. The Annual Well-Woman visit is a health assessment and should include screening, evaluation, and counseling for a variety of concerns. Based on your age and risk factors, a Pap will be done if needed.