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Woman’s-to-Women: Keeping Women Healthy

Woman’s Hospital is asking that women pledge to schedule several preventive screenings. Simply add these to your “to do” list, and call your doctor’s office. Your life could depend upon it.

Gynecological Visit

Visiting your gynecologist annually is one of the best ways to stay healthy. Your doctor typically checks your weight, performs a breast and pelvic exam, and, when appropriate, a Pap test. Combined, these are good indicators of your overall gynecologic health, and the starting point for early detection of gynecological cancers.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends the following visits:

  • Teenage girls should see an OB/GYN between the ages of 13 to 15 to establish a relationship with the doctor and review their medical history. This typically does not include a pelvic exam. However, this is a good time to ask questions and learn about sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Every woman between ages 21 to 29 should get a breast exam, pelvic exam and a Pap test every year.
  • Between ages 30 to 64, women should get a pelvic exam every year and a Pap test every other year or as often as their doctor recommends.
  • Women ages 65 to 70 should have a Pap test every two years. As always, consult with your doctor.

Today, more women are using their OB/GYN as their primary care physician. “This is an individual choice, and a woman should discuss this with her physician in advance to make sure the doctor is willing to provide those services,” recommends Dr. Terrie Thomas, OB/GYN with Associates in Women’s Health. As Dr. Thomas explains, this trend could be the result of a more time sensitive culture. “It’s often easier to get all your medical issues covered in one visit, and women are typically more comfortable with their gynecologist since they see them more often.”

Mammogram

There are definitely worse things in life than a mammogram, like breast cancer. A mammogram is the single most effective tool in identifying breast cancer. “Early detection is the key to survival, and the role of a screening mammogram is to identify a breast mass long before it can be felt by the patient or physician. At Woman’s, we also triple review all mammograms to ensure the most accurate results,” says Dr. Steven Sotile, Woman’s radiologist.

The American Cancer Society recommends, and Woman’s offers, mammograms to women beginning at age 40 and continuing annually. Depending upon your medical or family history, your doctor may recommend this test earlier or more often. Remember, every woman is unique and your individual breast cancer risks differ, so take the time to talk to your doctor.

If time and location are obstacles to getting a mammogram, Woman’s has a mobile mammography coach that travels to over 18 Louisiana parishes, including Livingston. Check when the mobile coach will be in your neighborhood.

Colonoscopy

When women reach age 50, it is recommended they schedule a colonoscopy. Others who have gone before will inevitably say, “The prep is worse than the procedure,” and they are correct. However, the importance of this exam is underlined by the fact that colon cancer is one of the most curable and preventable cancers today, yet it’s the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.

A colonoscopy is a test that allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your large intestine by inserting a thin, flexible tube called a colonscope. In addition to detecting ulcers, colon polyps, tumors, and areas of inflammation or bleeding, a physician can check for cancer or precancerous growths. “This test is important because south Louisiana’s diet and obesity rates put us at a higher risk than the average 1 in 20 adults,” says Dr. Kerry Howell, Woman’s gastroenterologist.

The preparations for a colonoscopy all focus on cleaning out your colon. Then, under conscious sedation, carbon dioxide (CO2) is used to inflate to colon, which will be flat because it will be empty. Luckily, the use of carbon dioxide instead of air has greatly reduced post-procedure cramps and gas, making recovery more comfortable. Since privacy is a priority at Woman’s, we provide every woman with a private room before and after her procedure.

If you are 50 years old, talk to your doctor about scheduling your colonoscopy. If you have a family history, your doctor may recommend this test earlier or more often.

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