WOMEN’S HEALTH EXAMS
Do I need an annual exam?
There are two approaches to health/sickness. One is to wait until illness occurs and then to treat it. The other is to check on your health status regularly to pick up patterns of imbalance before they become diseases and correct the pattern. Each of us can decide how we want to approach our own health
I believe in preventative disease care. You may have years of annual exams that are normal and some consider that a waste of money and time. For me, the reassurance of a normal annual exam decreases stress. I often find something going on like a sugar balance or lipid profile that is just beginning to change towards disease. We can intervene without medication to turn this progress around. Sometimes we deal with cervical polyps, or vaginal infections that you didn’t know you had.
In my practice if you are in treatment for a functional illness or are using hormone replacement I believe you should have a yearly exam.
What is an Annual Women’s Health Exam?
Probably the most important aspect of the women’s healthl exam is the HISTORY. This is the talking part where we discuss what is happening for you since your last exam. It includes diet, exercise, caffeine and alcohol consumption, allergies, medication and supplements you are taking, your personal medical history, your family’s medical history and a list of questions about what physical and emotional symptoms you may or may not be experiencing.
Next is the physical exam. I check your: ears for any inflammation or wax blockages ( a common problem in the desert), throat, eyes for cataracts and pupil responses, neck for lymph nodes and thyroid nodules or goiters, lungs for breath sounds and proper breathing mechanisms, heart sounds rate and rhythm, skin for abnormal growths and circulation problems, breasts, abdomen for size of liver, enlargement of other organs, masses tenderness tightness of muscles hernias and pain, groin for enlarged lymph nodes and pulses, pelvic exam for condition of your vulva, vagina, cervix uterus and ovaries and after 50 a rectal exam for abnormal masses and for colon blood (unless you have had a colonoscopy).
The annual exam informs us both about the pattern of your health. There may be developing patterns of dis-ease that can be handled with life style changes such as diet and exercise, herbs and remedies. On the other hand you may be doing very well and can be reassured that your current self-care is working. Since you live in your body, I believe you get to decide if you will do these exams. If you haven’t had a women’s health exam in awhile I encourage you to call us and make an appointment .
What Lab. tests go with an women’s health exam?
We have changed our ideas about the necessary frequency for pap smears and mammograms. There is an experiment going on using HPV testing with pap smear and if it is negative for high risk virus then paps are done every three years. If you have a history of abnormal paps, you should have a pap yearly. I believe the choice about frequency is each individuals to make after a discussion of the options and risks.
Mammograms used to be started at age 35. Now the suggestion is to begin them at age 50. It does not mean that younger women have no risk of developing breast cancer, only that it takes too many women having mammograms to find a cancer and that there are too many false negatives with the cost of work up and trauma of the work up. When Medicine looked at the outcome of doing mammograms in younger women they found that mammograms were not changing the outcome for women before the age of 50. The alternative before 50 is a combination of self breast exam and thermograms.Women who have a family history of breast cancer or very dense or sore breasts can do Thermograms until they are 50.
Blood work. Until the age of 50 healthy women should check their liver function, kidney function, complete blood count, thyroid, ferritin, HSCRP to check for inflammation in our vessels and a Vit. D level every 5 years. More frequent testing may be indicated to follow up and abnormal result. From 50 to 70 we do these tests every 3 years and after 70 every year.
All labs are a suggestion and we can alter the frequency based on results and also upon personal preference. No one is forced to do labs, the choice is always yours.
In these economically stressful times can I do exams less frequently
If you are healthy and are not on any medications such as prescribed contraception, hormone replacement, hypertension or thyroid, doing a physical biyearly is probably fine. I have been suggesting a full physical every two to three years with a GYN exam of history breast and pelvic in the in between years.
If you are healthy and using a prescription medication or hormone replacement you should have a yearly physical.
For an appointment contact us.