By Susan E. Vogler, DO
Maintaining optimal health is important in preventing major health problems. An annual checkup is one way to maintain health and prevent life threatening disease. Here’s a review to discuss the reasons why you need to visit your gynecologist regularly.
Adolescence: Ages 13-18 Years
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that young women have an evaluation with a gynecologist between the ages of 13 years and 15 years. The visit includes a health screening and counseling and often a physical examination. A pelvic exam is usually not necessary. Topics covered include personal health and well being with the emphasis on prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection. Safe sexual practices are discussed. The benefits of having the human papilloma virus vaccine to prevent cervical disease is reviewed. The gynecologist will review normal development and normal menstrual periods. Learning more about what is normal can help young women decide if they have a problem that needs to be addressed during future appointments.
Peak Reproductive Years: Ages 19 To 39 Years
Most women begin to establish a lifelong relationship with a gynecologist during the reproductive years. Preventative health visits during this phase of the woman's life address a broad range of medical, surgical and psychosocial needs. Establishing healthy life style practices such as stress reduction, regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight are emphasized. Pre-pregnancy counseling and genetic counseling is pursued if there is a strong family history of certain medical problems. An examination of the breasts, abdomen, and pelvis is performed. A Pap smear test is initiated for the first time at age 21 which is performed during a pelvic examination. Screening for STDs is routine for young women who are sexually active. Counseling on contraception, fertility and family planning is often a focus of discussion.
Mid-Life Years: Ages 40-60 Years
Preventative care is even more important during this period of the
woman's life. Routine detection and prevention of disease takes place. Cervical cancer screening with Pap smear testing continues on a routine basis. In general, annual breast cancer screening with the use of mammography is initiated at age 40 years. At 50 years of age, women are referred for colonoscopy to undergo colorectal cancer screening. Also, bone mineral density testing for screening for osteoporosis may be initiated at the time of menopause.
In addition, many women start to notice changes in the menstrual cycle -- the hallmark symptom of impending menopause. The average age of menopause is 51 years. Problems and symptoms related to peri-menopause, the transition to menopause, may occur for several years prior to this. Many women experience irregular bleeding that is heavy and prolonged. An ultrasound and biopsy of the uterus may be necessary to determine if a problem exists. Medical and surgical remedies to treat irregular periods is reviewed. Also, many women experience hot flashes for the first time. A discussion of the benefits and risks of hormone therapy may be initiated.
Postmenopausal Years: Ages 65 Years And Beyond
The postmenopausal years are a time of considerable medical and social life changes. The physical examination includes a pelvic and breast exam but may not include a Pap smear to screen for cervical disease. The visit encompasses medical issues specific to aging and the menopausal process. Screening mammography continues and bone mineral density testing is performed on a routine basis. Maintaining optimal bone health to prevent osteoporosis is reviewed. Adequate exercise and proper nutrition with the recommended intake of calcium and vitamin D is discussed. In addition, many women experience urinary incontinence which can affect quality of life. Intervention can take the form of additional monitoring, treatment, referral or surgery.
The relationship between a healthcare provider and a patient is an important one. As a patient, you should play an active role in this relationship. To get the best care, be prepared for your visit. Do not hesitate to ask questions if you are concerned about something. If you need treatment, know the risks and benefits.
Susan E. Vogler, DO
Hawthorn Medical Associates Gynecologist Susan E. Vogler, DO, is board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. She specializes in providing comprehensive, personalized women’s health care that encompasses the special health issues women face from the teenage years to menopause.
A graduate of New England School of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Vogler completed an Obstetrics/Gynecology residency at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, CT.
Dr. Vogler sees patients at 537 Faunce Corner Road in Dartmouth, MA. Her office number is 508-996-3991.
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