You know it’s important to visit your gynecologist if you’re having symptoms like pelvic pain, excessive bleeding, unusual discharge or painful intercourse – but what part does your annual gynecologic exam play in your overall health?
Here are some ways your gynecologist helps to monitor and maintain your overall health:
- Assesses markers of overall health.
At your annual exam, you’ll be weighed, your blood pressure will be taken and the physician or nurse will listen to your heart. If your body mass index (BMI) or blood pressure are high, your gynecologist can offer some diet and lifestyle tips that can put you on the path to better health. He or she will also ask about your smoking, drinking and sexual behaviors and encourage healthy habits
- Identifies and addresses pelvic problems.
A pelvic exam involves an external examination of the vulva, an internal examination of the vagina and cervix, and an examination of the uterus and ovaries. Through this examination, your gynecologist can identify symptoms of infections, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, structural abnormalities and even pre-cancerous or cancerous conditions.
- Helps reduce your risk of cervical and breast cancers – or detect it at an early, treatable stage.
The American Cancer Society recommends that all women should begin cervical cancer screening at age 21. Up to age 29, women should have a Pap test every three years to check for precancerous changes or other abnormalities. Beginning at age 30, women should be screened with a Pap test combined with an HPV test (during the same procedure).
Your gynecologist will also conduct a breast exam, feeling for any lumps and looking for skin changes that could indicate breast cancer. Often, lumps found during these exams are benign, and your physician will recommend follow-up tests
- Helps you avoid sexually transmitted infections – or treat existing ones – and prevent unplanned pregnancies.
Your gynecologist is your best resource for discussing and acquiring contraceptive pills or devices (like IUDs) and for ensuring you’re taking the right precautions to prevent STIs.
- Makes sure you’re staying on top of other key screenings, immunizations and issues affecting your health.
Are you due for a colonoscopy, bone density screening or mammogram? Your gynecologist will offer reminders for these important tests, as well as flu or shingles vaccinations, and cholesterol checks. Your physician may also ask about your emotional state and relationship health to screen for depression and other psychological issues.
Ask Your Gynecologist
Your gynecologist is a medical professional committed to helping you achieve your best health. You should feel comfortable asking him or her any questions you may have. Speak up if you have questions about:
- Heavy, painful or irregular periods.
- Signs of a hormonal imbalance, like acne or excessive hair growth.
- Sexual discomfort.
- Self-breast exams.
- Itching, odor or discharge.
- Urine leakage (when you laugh, cough or sneeze).
- Birth control options.
- Symptoms of menopause and how to manage them.
How Can Integrative Gynecology Benefit You?
Integrative medicine is about restoring balance to the body and mind. An integrative medicine provider can help you identify hormonal imbalances, lifestyle factors and medical conditions contributing to your gynecological health issues. And, he or she can guide you through traditional and alternative treatments that may help – from hormonal treatments (like birth control pills) to acupuncture to prescription medications.
Holy Redeemer recently welcomed gynecologist Dr. Dinah Gonzalez– a women’s health practitioner who believes in the holistic and personalized care that is the hallmark of integrative medicine – to our healthcare family. Dr. Gonzalez wants to change the way women feel about their health by empowering them to become active participants in their own healthcare. To make an appointment with Dr. Gonzalez, call 215-544-5695.