Well-Women Check Ups
It’s a fact of life for females. The menstrual cycle or “period”. And it is because of this that women reap the miseries of cramps and the joys of motherhood.
Therefore, keeping your track of your period, making sure you are experiencing regular cycles, and noting whether you have any odd symptoms or pain associated with your period, are issues your physician should be made aware.
Talking to your doctor at your annual well-woman check up is the optimal time for discussing your menstrual cycle issues.
The practitioners at Blackwood Family Medicine are highly experienced in administering well-women exams, which include a pelvic exam, pap smear, and breast exam. These preventive measure screenings are used to rule out pre-cancer and cancer conditions.
Pap Smears and Breast Exams and Mammograms!
Screenings for various types of cancer, especially concerning a woman’s reproductive system, are critical components of pro-active womens health care. Our family physicians are experienced in performing these screenings and follow the standard guidelines as set by the American Cancer Society.
Reducing your risks and early detection are your best defense for any type of cancer.
Pap Smear or Pap Test
The screening test for cervical pre-cancer and cancer is the pap smear, sometimes called a pap test. A small tissue sample is taken from the cervix wall during the pelvic exam. It is then evaluated by a lab for abnormal cells. Results usually take a few weeks. Your doctor will let you know your results.
Guidelines suggest that women have their first pap smear exam at age 21.
Talk to your practitioner about your personal and family history to determine your risk for cancer.
Breast Exam – Self-checking is Your Priority
Breast cancer is the second highest reason for cancer deaths in women in the United States. Learning to do a self-check breast exam is your first line of early detection.
By performing this exam on your own breasts, you will learn what feels and looks normal vs. something that does not. Redness, swelling, tenderness, dimples, or discharge from the nipples, are some of the warning signs. It is a good practice to do the self-check breast exam on a monthly basis, a few days after your menstrual cycle for the best results.
At your annual woman’s health exam, your practitioner will perform a clinical breast exam and can teach you how to do one on yourself.
Pick up your self-check breast exam instruction cards available for home use at your next appointment.
The Pap Smear Procedure
The pap smear procedure is a part of full pelvic exam, which takes about 10 minutes total. A pelvic exam is a way for the doctor to inspect the exterior genital area, as well as check the organs in the lower abdomen–feeling for abnormalities or masses. Though not a comfortable exam, it should not be painful. For your comfort, the doctor will explain their steps as the exam proceeds.
Your Mammogram Screening
Getting a mammogram is not a pleasant experience but it is another weapon in the arsenal against breast cancer. A baseline mammogram is suggested at age 40, earlier if there is family history of breast cancer.
HPV Pap Smear
Human Papilloma Virus or HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that affect both males and females and can lead to cervical cancer in women.
HPV testing should not be done unless there has been an abnormal pap result. An HPV pap smear may be taken at the same time and is done the same way as a regular pap test.
Research shows that even if you get HPV it often goes away on its own with no lasting health issues.
A vaccine has also been developed for HPV, but it is mostly recommended for younger girls to prevent the spread of the virus.
The Mammogram Procedure
A mammogram is an X-ray and the process itself does not take very long. The mammogram procedure involves your breast being pressed between two plastic trays or plates (holding the digital X-ray “film”) while you stand in a slightly ackward position next to the X-ray machine. Not very inviting but thankfully it only lasts a few seconds and uses minimal radiation.
Don’t forget your mammogram orders at your annual visit.
Mammograms are helpful in detecting tumors but may not always show if cancer is present, which is why combining it with the breast self-exam is crucial. You will know first if something has changed.
The Annual Physical Exam for Women
Women’s health issues go far beyond the reproductive system of the body. Heart disease is the number 1 cause of death among women in America.
The annual physical is a time for patients to discuss lifestyle choices and make decisions regarding better health options. Taking care of the whole person, body and mind, starts at home and is partnered with your primary care provider–Your Family Doctor!
An annual physical examination for women is not just for the female student or older adult woman. It is for ladies of all ages because women’s health is important at all ages. Preventive care including women physicals may stop a disease process from starting or be an avenue of early detection that ends up saving your life.
We encourage all women to make their health a priority.
Ladies, the health of your whole family often depends on your health. Over the years subtle changes can be indicators leading toward chronic conditions or diseases. We monitor:
- Vital signs
- Stress levels
- Family dynamics
- Exercise patterns
- Cardiovascular system
- Pulmonary function
- Neurological signs
We Do Physicals for Women Who Are Active
If you are a female patient training for a sporting event, amateur or professional athlete, or just a serious workout warrior, monitoring your weight, nutrition, bone health, and menstrual cycle are important.
Women, especially young ladies, are at risk of experiencing conditions referred to as the “female athlete triad”. These are caused by extremes in exercise and improper diet, and are often associated with a negative body image. The three conditions are:
- Eating Disorders
- Menstrual Interruption or Dysfunction
- Pre-mature Osteoporosis
Treatment for these conditions are available and may require the efforts of your general physician, athletic trainer or coach, a nutritionist, and mental health counselor. Talking to your primary care doctor and reporting changes as soon as possible in these areas of concern will help stave off more serious conditions as you age and train.
Stay updated on your overall health status.
Remember to schedule both your complete annual and female physical exams.
Thinking about having a baby? Want to wait to start a family? Questions about your sexual health?
The best time to get pregnant, birth control or contraception options, and sexual health concerns are common topics of discussion during the well-women annual checkup.
Blackwood Family Medicine knows these topics are not always easy to broach or you may feel embarrassed asking an important question. We wants all of our female patients to feel comfortable chatting with our practitioners about any subject. The only way to get the proper treatment is to be completely honest with your primary physician. We offer a safe, non-judgemental environment to all patients.
Over the past 20 years, Blackwood Family Medicine has developed long-standing professional relationships with many medical, psychological, and counseling specialists in the Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads area. Whenever it is needed, we will work diligently to get you referred to the best specialist for your needs.
Pregnancy and Postpartum Care
Our practitioners are happy to perform pregnancy testing for our existing female patients, however we provide limited prenatal care. We can recommend you to highly skilled obstetricians in the area to meet your pregnancy term requirements. If you have general health concerns or other wellness needs while pregnant, our physicians are able to treat you as needed.
Once you have delivered your newborn, our physicians are happy to provide the new mom with general postpartum care, but your postpartum pelvic and cervical exams should be performed by your established OB/GYN.
A woman’s body goes through many changes after having a baby. Returning to your pre-pregnancy physical shape is often a priority for many women but it is only part of the process of recovering from childbirth. Studies show women who choose to breastfeed often return to their pre-baby weight faster because they burn more calories when breastfeeding, between 300-400 calories per day.
During the postpartum days, you may experience:
- Postpartum depression
- Hair loss (temporary)
- Changes in skin tone
- Stretch marks
- Breast changes
These are a few of the conditions your body may face after giving birth to your bundle of joy. Many of them fade with time, but some may be permanent changes. Your practitioner at Blackwood Family Medicine can help you identify these changes and provide guidance in how to manage them.
Another fact of life for women is menopause. This is the transition where the hormones in your body change once again and you no longer have a menstrual cycle. Some women make this “change of life” without much difficulty, however others suffer great discomfort.
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Cold spells
- Irritability or severe mood swings
- Weight changes
- Trouble sleeping
Menopause is marked by the lack of a menstrual cycle for at least 12 consecutive months and may happen in your late 40’s to early 50’s. While your body is experiencing the lack of a period, it is in a perimenopausal state. Many of the symptoms of menopause may begin at this time.
Hormone replacement has been beneficial for some women depending on which symptoms affect them most. But there are many natural remedies that may be recommended as well.
Stress may be a contributing factor to the negative symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. During this time many women are working full-time jobs, dealing with aging parents, may have grown children leaving home and starting families, and often are facing the reality that they are not as young as they used to be. Any combination of these stressors make the side effects of menopause more difficult to tolerate.
After your body’s estrogen hormone levels lower, your are considered post-menopausal and many of the negative symptoms subside. But lower estrogen levels are attributed to osteoporosis and heart disease. Therefore, annual physicals exams should be scheduled to monitor for these conditions.