The American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists agree that the average patient does not need a pap smear every year. The cervical cancer screening guidelines have changed.
Dr. Brittany Denny, a physician with ProMedica Physicians Obstetrics and Gynecology and a Michigan State and Bedford High School graduate said, “But that doesn’t mean a woman should skip their annual exam. Even though patients don’t need a pap every year to screen for cervical cancer, an annual pelvic exam is a vital part of maintaining ongoing health.”
In her Sylvania practice, and at a second location opening at Levis Commons in Perrysburg this July, Dr. Denny is available to perform annual exams that include a great deal of preventive health screenings that are specific to women.
Dr. Denny said, “As women, we tend to put ourselves as the last priority. We fall behind in maintaining our own health. That is when small problems can become very big problems.”
“A gynecologist is likely the only provider performing an annual pelvic exam for the patient. This process of looking at the vulva and vagina and feeling the uterus and ovaries is still one of the best ways to screen for vulvar, vaginal, uterine, and ovarian cancers,” says Dr. Denny. “Early detection and diagnosis is the key to surviving cervical cancer.”
In addition to getting milestone vaccinations, an annual exam can include depression screening, discussion about weight control, preconception counseling, and discussion about menopause. Other symptoms and conditions might include post-coital bleeding, frequent and recurrent vaginitis, breast pain complaints and frequent bladder infections.
For women who are sexually active and younger than 26 years of age, an annual screening for chlamydia and gonorrhea may be performed at the exam, since these diseases can be asymptomatic and cause infertility if left untreated. (Note: Not all insurances cover the costs of these screenings. Check with your health insurance plan before having these tests.)
For women with a history of abnormal Pap smears or medical conditions, such as HPV, annual visits with an OB/GYN are critical to staying healthy. Most physicians recommend that women with a menstrual history of heavy, painful periods, or premenstrual syndrome (PMS) see their OB/GYN annually and sometimes more often to manage these problems.
A visit with the gynecologist might also be the only time when a patient has the opportunity to talk about safe sex, sexually transmitted diseases, and issues with painful intercourse and intimacy. “Be proactive when it comes to your own health,” says Dr. Denny. “If something is difficult or embarrassing for you to discuss, write your concerns down on a piece of paper and I can read it to help start our conversation.”