Women’s Health

Women’s health needs can change considerably over a lifetime due to hormonal changes that take place during puberty, pregnancy, and the menopause. Services by our physician are adjusted to accommodate all life stages based on your age, your health history and your family medical history, and other risk factors.

The purpose of these services is to help encourage a healthy lifestyle, and to help you avoid problems in the future. Recommended tests include breast cancer screening and an annual gynecological exam. Other services may include hormone replacement therapy for women.

Breast Cancer Screening

Breast cancer is unfortunately common, and the tests recommended are dependent on your age, your family history, and if you have received any previous diagnoses of breast cancer that could increase your risk.

Screening aims to detect signs of breast cancer even when there are no symptoms as our goal is to catch any signs of cancer as soon as possible.

Breast cancer screening is usually done using mammography or breast x-ray. That said, mammograms are not perfect, and they can miss some signs of cancer or can detect signs that are not cancer (a false positive result). They may also find cancers that are very low risk, and which would not have caused any health problems if they were not found or treated.

What Is the Best Age to Start Having Mammograms?

Everybody is different, and there is not a universal age at which you are recommended to have your first breast cancer screening. Usually, breast cancer screenings are less useful in younger women because the breast tissue is denser, so it is harder to detect any potential cancers. However, some women have a higher risk of breast cancer and especially those with close family members with this disease.

These women should begin screening earlier than others, and screening may include other tests besides mammograms.

Generally, the American Cancer Society recommends women aged 40 to 44 are given the option to begin annual screening and that women aged 45 to 54 years should have annual screenings. Women aged 55 and older should receive screenings every two years but should be given the option for screening annually.

A mammogram only takes a few moments to complete, and although it may be momentarily uncomfortable as the breast tissue is squeezed between two plates, it should not feel painful. Monthly self-checks are also useful in detecting any changes to the breast tissue that could occur in between screenings.

Hormone Replacement Therapy for Women

During the menopause, estrogen levels begin to fall, and this can create uncomfortable symptoms for some women, including hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Hormone replacement therapy is a medication containing female hormones no longer made by the body after menopause and is one of the most effective treatments for unwanted symptoms. It can also help to prevent bone loss, reducing the risk of fractures in postmenopausal women.

Estrogen can be given alone or with progestin, and the precise therapy prescribed is dependent on your age, medical and family medical history and other factors such as your risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Hormone replacement therapy can be especially useful for women who have experienced premature menopause, providing protective benefits against osteoporosis and heart disease.

How Is Hormone Replacement Therapy Given?

Hormone replacement therapy is given as a pill, gel, cream, or skin patch. There are also low-dose vaginal estrogen treatments given as a cream, tablet, or ring form and which can treat local symptoms and some urinary symptoms while reducing absorption into the body.

This form of hormone replacement therapy will not help with hot flashes or night sweats and does not offer protection against osteoporosis.

We work with multiple reputable gynecologists in the area and refer patients for the following:

Annual Gynecological Exam

Every women’s annual exam or physical checkup should include an annual gynecological exam. A gynecological examination includes a full pelvic examination.

This is a complete physical examination of the pelvic organs and helps our physician to evaluate the size and health of the uterus, ovaries, cervix, and vagina. The examination includes a bimanual exam where the pelvic organs are palpitated, allowing our primary care doctor to feel the organs physically and to check how they move, their shape and consistency, and their position in the pelvis.

It is a critical part of the examination as it can allow us to detect any signs of abnormalities or masses and which may require further testing. A speculum examination allows the doctor to fully examine the vaginal walls and the cervix using a speculum made from metal or plastic and which helps to open the vagina.

Pap Test

A Pap test or smear is used to screen for cervical cancer. You may not need a Pap test annually, depending on your medical history. The Pap smear can be taken during your pelvic exam, removing a sample of cells from your cervix using a small scraper, spatula, or brush.

The cells are analyzed by a pathologist under a microscope to check for any changes that require further investigation. The test should only feel mildly uncomfortable and is an important part of your health checkup.