Reasons You Should Get An OB/GYN
An estimated 12,360 new cases of invasive cervical cancer were diagnosed in the United States in 2014. Below are 4 ways to reduce your risk of cervical cancer.
Get an OB/GYN
An OB/GYN serves as a woman’s primary care physician with expertise in both Obstetrics and Gynecology. OB/GYNs provide diagnosis and treatment of disorders and diseases of the female reproductive system, as well as manage pregnancy, labor and the time-period immediately following childbirth. These physicians provide women with preventative care, prenatal care, detection of sexually transmitted diseases, pap test screening and family planning. Routine gynecological exams are an essential part of a woman’s total health and well-being. These important yearly exams allow the physician to detect problems, such as cervical cancer, in their early stages when they can be treated more easily.
Get the HPV Vaccine
HPV is short for Human Papillomavirus. In the United States each year, there are about 17,500 women and 9,300 men affected by HPV-related cancers. Many of these cancers (such as cervical cancer) could be prevented with vaccination. The CDC recommends the HPV vaccine for preteen boys and girls at age 11 or 12 so they are protected before ever being exposed to the virus. The HPV vaccine is given in 3 shots. The second shot is given 1 or 2 months after the first shot, then a third shot is given 6 months after the first shot.
If your teen hasn’t gotten the vaccine yet, talk to their doctor about getting it for them as soon as possible.
Get Pap Tests Regularly
Cervical cancer can almost always be prevented, and having regular Pap tests is the key. The Pap test looks for cancers and precancers in the cervix. Precancers are cell changes that might become cancer if they are not properly treated.
The US Department of Health recommends that most women ages 21 to 65 get Pap tests as part of routine health care. Even if you are not currently sexually active, you should still have a Pap test. Women who have gone through menopause and are younger than 65 still need regular Pap tests. Keeping recent guideline changes in mind, your OB/GYN will be able to give you a specific screening schedule that you should follow based on your age and medical history.
Get HPV Testing if Recommended
The HPV test checks for the virus that can cause precancerous cell changes on the cervix. It may be used to screen for cervical cancer, along with a Pap test, in women aged 30 years and older. HPV tests also may be used to provide more information when a Pap test has unclear results. Knowing whether you have a type of HPV that puts you at high risk of cervical cancer means that you and your doctor can better decide on the next steps in your health care. Those steps might include follow-up monitoring, further testing, or treatment of abnormal or precancerous cells. The HPV test is available only to women; no HPV test yet exists to detect the virus in men. However, men can be infected with HPV and pass the virus along to their partners.
Guidelines for Pap tests and pelvic exams
Do you know when you need to have a pap test or pelvic exam? Recent changes in guidelines may leave many of us confused about when to have these important screenings.
These new guidelines recommend:
- Women should not be screened before age 21.
- Women 21 to 29 should be screened with the Pap test every 3 years.
- Women 30 and over should be screened with the Pap test plus HPV testing every 5 years, or screened with the Pap test alone every 3 years.
- Screening is not recommended for women over age 65 who have had at least 3 consecutive negative Pap tests or at least 3 negative HPV tests in the last 10 years, with the most recent test in the last 5 years. Women in this age group who have a history of cervical pre-cancer should continue routine screening for at least 20 years, even if this extends beyond age 65.
- An annual pelvic exam is still recommended for women age 21 and over.
It is important for women to know if a Pap test was performed because it is possible to have a pelvic exam without a Pap test. It is also important that women know and understand their Pap test results and follow through with any recommendations made by their healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider will also be able to tell you more specifically about the screening schedule you should follow based on your medical history.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, urinary tract infections (UTI’s) are the second most common type of infection in the body, accounting for about 8.1 million visits to health care providers each year. For women, the lifetime risk of having a UTI is greater than 50 percent. A UTI is an infection in any part of your urinary system, including your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra.
The signs and symptoms of a UTI can include:
- A strong, persistent urge to urinate
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
- Urine that appears cloudy
- Urine that appears red, bright pink or cola-colored (a sign of blood in the urine)
- Strong-smelling urine
Symptoms of a more severe UTI can include:
- Abdominal pain
- High fever
- Shaking and chills
Make sure to contact your doctor if you experience any of these signs and symptoms, as they can also indicate other more serious conditions.
Urinary tract infections typically occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra and begin to multiply in the bladder. When this happens, bacteria may take hold and grow into a full-blown infection in the urinary tract. Take these steps to reduce your risk of urinary tract infections:
- Drink plenty of liquids, especially water. Drinking water helps dilute your urine and ensures that you’ll urinate more frequently — allowing bacteria to be flushed from your urinary tract before an infection can begin.
- Avoid long intervals between urinating. Try to empty the bladder at least every 4 hours during the day while awake, even if the need or urge to void is absent. When feeling the need to empty the bladder, do not try to “hold it”.
- Use good hygiene. This includes always wiping from the front to the back after using the bathroom, taking showers and avoiding prolonged baths.
- Do not wear tight-fitting undergarments made of non-breathable materials. Such fabrics can cause moisture build up and lead to bacterial overgrowth. Cotton underwear for general use is suggested.
- In some cases, drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry tablets has been shown to prevent UTIs, especially in young women who are at risk for these infections. However, cranberries don’t prevent bacteria from growing in the urinary tract; they just make it harder for the bacteria to take hold. Cranberry juice also does not treat urinary tract infections once they have started.
Doctors typically use antibiotics to treat urinary tract infections. Which drugs are prescribed and for how long depends on your health condition and the type of bacteria found in your urine. Usually, symptoms clear up within a few days of treatment, but in some cases you may need to continue antibiotics for a week or more. It’s important to take the entire course of antibiotics prescribed by your doctor to ensure that the infection is completely gone. A severe UTI may require treatment with intravenous antibiotics in a hospital.
9 Tips for a Healthier Bladder
1. Drink plenty of fluids. Strive to drink enough fluids to pass 2 liters of urine a day, which is roughly eight standard 8-ounce cups.
2. If you’re healthy and properly hydrated, your urine should be clear, pale or straw-colored. If it’s darker than that or discolored, it could be an indication of dehydration or a more serious health problem.
3. Limit beverages containing alcohol or caffeine. These can cause dehydration, bladder irritation and increased urine production.
4. Avoid chocolate (another source of caffeine), as well as spicy or acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus fruits if they bother you. These are all common irritants to the urinary tract.
5. Use the restroom as soon as you feel the urge to go. Waiting too long can lead to infections.
6. Constipation can negatively affect your bladder health by putting pressure on the bladder, causing the need to urinate more frequently and urgently. For tips on how to help prevent constipation, visit: www.sdmg.com/userfiles/Constipation.pdf
7. Maintain a healthy weight. The heavier you are, the more weight presses on your bladder.
8. Quit smoking. Not only can smoking increase the risk of bladder cancer over the long term, but cigarette smoke and nicotine also act as immediate bladder irritants.
9. Make sure to tell your doctor about any pain you experience during urination, or changes to the frequency, amount, or color of your urine.