Visiting a Gynecologist - A Users Manual
Visiting a Gynecologist—A Users Manual
As an obstetrician/gynecologist, I am often asked at what age girls should begin to see a gynecologist and then how frequently? Older readers may be surprised at these newest guidelines.
Today, it is recommended that adolescent girls see a gynecologist for the first time when they are between the ages of 13 and 15 years. More often than not, this visit won’t include a Pap Test but will be more of an educational give-and-take with both parties asking questions. If the girl is sexually active, though, the physician may do a pelvic exam.
The regular pelvic exam is a way for doctors to look for abnormalities in the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries and bladder. It is first done when the patient is sexually active or becomes 21 years old—and then continues annually. This is the same age at which the Pap Test, which is done during the pelvic exam, is begun.
A Pap Test is an investigation of a sample of cells taken from a woman's cervix. The test is used to look for changes in the cells of the cervix that show cervical cancer or conditions that may develop into cancer. It is the best tool to detect precancerous conditions and hidden, small tumors that may lead to cervical cancer.
Routine Pap screening is recommended every two years until a woman reaches age 30. Then, for certain women who have had three consecutive normal screening test results, testing can be done every three years.
The technology for Pap Tests has changed. Now a woman can have it done during her menstrual cycle, whereas before, she had to wait until it was over.
As part of the routine visit, I also do a breast exam and check a patient’s heart and lungs. Many women also consider their gynecologist to be their primary care physician. It is for this reason that I check with my patients to confirm this. If they aren’t also seeing a primary care physician, I conduct a more-thorough examination.
I will be writing periodically about various gynecology issues. Please submit questions below and let me know what you would like to discuss.
ABOUT DR. SINCAVAGE:
Joseph T. Sincavage, MD, received his medical degree from Hahnemann University Hospital, served an internship and residency at Western Pennsylvania Hospital and received additional training at MD Anderson Hospital in Houston. He is board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and has been on the Riddle Hospital staff since 1997.