New guidelines published recently by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists urges women 21 and older to have pelvic exams on an annual basis. This announcement comes just months after several groups, including the American Cancer Society said most women need a Pap smear only once every three years.
With the conflicting information, some women are confused about how often they should see their gynecologist. Many women think they should only see an OB/GYN physician for a Pap smear, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“Gynecologic cancers are among my top concerns for patients,” said Dr. Ronnie Dennis, an obstetrician and gynecologist (OB/GYN) at Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital (RPMH). “As with any type of cancer, appropriate screenings and preventive measures are key to ensure you remain healthy.”
A Pap smear, which tests for cervical cancer, is not the same as a pelvic exam. There are other gynecologic cancers that are tested for which are even more prevalent, such as endometrial cancers, with more than 35,000 women being diagnosed each year in the U.S.
Annual visits to an OB/GYN are an opportunity for women to talk with their physician about any possible health changes over the past year. They can also receive immunizations they may lack and screen for sexually transmitted infections, among other health risks.
By planning regular exams to go over genetic conditions and to determine risks, doctors can help catch diseases in their early stages when they are highly curable.
Regular examinations are not just cancer screenings, nor are they only for a certain age group. Due to the various stages of the reproductive system certain cancers are more prevalent in particular age brackets.
Where the risk group for cervical cancer begins at the age of 21, the risk for endometrial cancers do not commonly occur until before the age of 40. Risk factors for endometrial cancers can include obesity, hypertension, infertility and the late onset of menopause.
“Obesity and other health issues can also lead to other prominent but less life threatening problems than cancer such as menstrual disorders, inflammation and sexual health issues,” Dr. Dennis explained. “When working with various age groups, the diagnoses can differ, but the goal remains the same to keep my patients as healthy as possible.”
Dr. Dennis added that whether his patients are planning on having a baby in the future or just having some discomfort, reproductive well-being is important for a full and healthy life.
Some women still today do not feel the need for regular checkups when there are not known issues. The numbers have shown, regular checkups not only can help prevent cancer, inflammation, and sexual health issues but can also lead to security in family planning.
A doctor that you have built a relationship with will better understand your body and help manage your health and the health of your baby during your pregnancy.
This continuity of care will lead to trust and confidence in your doctor during pregnancy. Confidence, a recent study suggested, is critical to helping relieve patients’ anxieties towards birth.
“Finding problems, if any, during early stages and working to prevent reproductive diseases and damage before they can harm the patients’ health is my ultimate goal,” Dr. Dennis explained.
“Providing the necessary information on the risks and health issues is how I work to keep the women of Nolan County healthy.”
For more information about gynecological screenings and to schedule an appointment with Dr. Ronnie Dennis, please call 325-235-1888.
Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital is a community-focused healthcare provider serving residents in Nolan County, Texas. Founded in 1976, Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital offers a wealth of medical services including: 24 hour emergency care, advanced radiology services including CT scanning and MRIs, outpatient lab, physical therapy, surgical services, swing bed services, patient education, home health and assistive services, and more. For additional information, please visit www.rpmh.net .