The importance of regular gynaecological check-ups
“Prevention is better than cure” is a well stated fact.
There is substantial evidence that screening leads to early detection of disease, reduction in severity of disease, ease of treatment and better chance of survival. Work or family obligations keep women busy and they sideline their health. Almost all global gynaecological societies recommend the annual well woman visit.
These visits are a time for women and their doctors to discuss personal health, sexual health, contraception, pre-marital and pre-conception counselling, menopause and any gynaecological concerns. Even if you do not feel sick and believe that you are healthy, it is incredibly important to see your doctor annually. Women can take this opportunity to have open conversations with their doctors and learn helpful information about their bodies and discuss any recent changes or concerns related to their health.
A detailed medical, obstetric/gynaecological and family history is recorded by the doctor, which helps formulate a personalised health plan. A general physical, breast and pelvic examination is conducted, which allows the doctor to recommend the right diagnostic tests and preventative care. Depending on the age, sexual and medical history, the doctor may recommend a pap smear, screening for HPV or STIs and mammogram.
Pap smear is a screening test for cervical cancer, the timing of which depends on your age, health and medical history. It is recommended to get your first pap smear by age 21 and then every three years until the age of 30 and every three to five years thereafter. The frequency may vary depending on your test results. If the results are abnormal, the doctor may recommend further investigations.
Mammograms are recommended as part of regular preventative care for women, usually starting around 40 years of age. It is a special type of x-ray to check for signs of breast cancer, and is usually taken every one to two years. Early detection of breast cancer leads to a better chance of survival.
An annual visit checks not only your physical but also your mental health, emotional well-being and safety. It is an opportunity for the doctor to assess your baseline state of health and help you take prevenattive measures against disease. Regular annual check-ups aid in establishing a steady relationship with your doctor.
If you haven’t done so already, look for a gynaecologist you trust and feel comfortable with. Before the appointment, make a list of issues you want to discuss and inform the doctor at the start of your visit. It is good to keep a record of your medications, screenings and the results of previous investigations. Keep in mind that the guidelines on when to start and how often to schedule your gynaecologist visits are always changing. It is a good idea to always consult with your gynaecologist directly to plan your visits.
Authored by Dr. Sandhya Ranu Das