Gynecology and Well woman care FAQs  

Why do I need a pap smear?
Who needs a pap smear?
Does a pap smear screen for other infections?
Who is at risk for cervical cancer?
What is HPV?
What is a Bone Density test and why do I need one?
Who is most at risk for osteoporosis?
Is there a treatment for osteoporosis?
Do I need a mammogram?
What should I do if I feel a breast lump?
What should I do about recurrent yeast infections?
Do I need hormones?
I seem to have decreased libido. Is there something wrong with me?
How can I tell if I'm in menopause? Is there a blood test I should take? What am I supposed to do?

 

Why do I need a pap smear?

A pap smear screens for precancerous or cancerous cells of the cervix.  Often there are no signs or symptoms of cervical cancer.

Who needs a pap smear?

There are different opinions on this but we usually recommend a woman have a pap smear if they are between the ages of 18 and 21, or earlier if they have been sexually active.

Does a pap smear screen for other infections?

A pap smear only screens for precancerous or cancerous cervical cells.  Other tests such as wet smears, cultures or lab work might be needed to screen for other infections.

Who is at risk for cervical cancer?

Women who are or have been sexually active are at risk.  The more partners you have, the greater the risk.
Women who smoke.
Women who have never had a pap smear, or have not had one in years are at risk.
Women with a personal history of past abnormal pap smears are at risk.

What is HPV?

Human Pappillomavirus ( HPV) is an infection passed from one person to another through sexual contact.  There are at least 70 different strains of HPV.  Some strains cause external warts, some cause precancerous changes on the cervix and some have no affect on the body at all.  Patients with abnormal pap smears can have HPV testing to give the patient and healthcare provider more information and assist in planning care and treatment.  Gardisil is a vaccination which has been shown to decrease the incidence of some of the more dangerous strains of HPV.

What is a Bone Density test and why do I need one?

A Bone Density test screens for osteopenia and osteoporosis, or low bone mass.  This is a silent disease where the body starts losing bone at a faster rate than it can replace it.  As a result, your bones become thinner, weaker and more likely to break.  This test is similar to taking an x-ray.

Who is most at risk for osteoporosis?

Post menopausal women
Women with a family history are at risk
Women who smoke are at risk
Women with thyroid disease are at risk
Caucasian women are at risk
Women who take bone thinning medications (steroids) for a long period of time are at risk

Is there a treatment for osteoporosis?

There are many different treatments available for women with osteopenia or osteoporosis.  Sometimes calcium and vitamin D and weight bearing exercises are recommended.  Certain medications such as Fosamax, Actonel, Evista, Boniva have been shown to minimize bone loss and strengthen bones.  It’s important to have a bone density test as you become menopausal or earlier if you have risk factors.

Do I need a mammogram?

The American Cancer Society recommends all women 40 and older get annual mammograms.  If you have a family history of breast cancer you should discuss possible early mammograms and other breast cancer screening tools with your provider.

What should I do if I feel a breast lump?

Women should try to perform self breast examinations every month.  By examining your breasts regularly you can become familiar with what your normal breast tissue feels like and be more aware of breast changes.   Most breast lumps are benign but if you feel a change in your breast, you should see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

What should I do about recurrent yeast infections?

Yeast is a fungus that lives on our skin and thrives in moist dark environments.  People with recurrent yeast infections should avoid irritants to their vaginas (douching, harsh soaps) .Yeast also thrives on diets rich in sugar and alcohol.  Sometimes women who complain of recurrent yeast infections actually have other types of vaginal infections, so they should see their healthcare provider for further guidance.

Do I need hormones?

Hormone therapy is a treatment for women who have decreasing amounts of estrogen or progestin and have having symptoms which interfere with their day to day living..  Low hormone levels can start the menopause process and produces symptoms such as hot flashes, sleep disturbances, forgetfulness and vaginal dryness. There are a variety of other self-help treatments for some of the symptoms of menopause which many women find helpful during the transition to menopause.  Talk to your provider about what options are available for you.

I seem to have decreased libido. Is there something wrong with me?

Decreased libido is common for women at various points in their lives.  It is a complex situation because it could be physical, hormonal, or related to being exhausted in caring for your family.  Sometimes it’s about the relationship between you and your partner, or connected to your prior childhood or sexual experiences.  If this is a concern of yours you can talk to your healthcare provider.  Check out our links page for Dr. Berman‘s web site for more information on this topic.

How can I tell if I’m in menopause?  Is there a blood test I should take?  What am I supposed to do?

Menopause is defined as the cessation of menses for one year.  This usually occurs gradually over a number of years but the average age is 51.    Some women notice that their cycles become irregular or heavier at times.  They might experience hot flashes, sleep disturbances, or vaginal dryness.  There is a blood you can take to see if you’re menopausal but sometimes it takes the body a while for the numbers to reflect what is happening in your body. 

There are choices for women to make during the transition to menopause. They include looking at  your diet, exercise and risk factors for heart disease and osteoporosis. There are also decisions to make regarding taking hormones, herbal preparations, vitamins or  supplements.  It is a time where many women undergo a change emotionally as well as intellectually and this can bring opportunities for tremendous growth.  Please check our booklist on the links page for some books which many women have found helpful during this time of life. 

 
   
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