Women's Health

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One of the many things many doctors and health educators inform patients about is practicing early prevention and detection. As a woman, it's important to find a doctor you feel comfortable with as well as one that you can trust. The doctor you select should take the time to listen to your concerns, health issues and provide clear recommendations.

After you have selected your primary care provider (doctor), you should schedule your annual well woman exam (wwe) which includes a clinical breast exam, pap smear along with a clinical assessment.

Prior to your appointment: you can perform a self breast exam at home. If you see or feel any changes within the breast you can report that information to the provider, so they may re-evaluate the area of concern.

How to perform a self breast exam:

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In general, women should get their first mammogram by the age of 40 and yearly after that. However, if you have close family (blood) relative who has been diagnose with breast cancer before age 50. You may ask the provider recommend a genetics testing referral as well as schedule your 1st mammogram when you are 10 years younger than the age at which your relative was diagnosed.

Note: If you have a Normal CBE; the provider will order a routine bilateral screening mammogram
If you have an Abnormal CBE; the provider will order a bilateral diagnostic screening mammogram with either a unilateral or bilateral ultrasound of the breast.

Attention: most women think it's only in your 40's when you should take precaution, but I've seen cases where women are in their early 20's and 30's and while a mammogram might not be recommended because of age, an Ultrasound can be performed. Also, if the women have really dense breast than a mammogram may be recommended.

Keep in mind ladies to ask as many questions you can to your provider and have him or her explain recommendations. Another key factor in reducing your risk of cancer is through lifestyle changes and monitor symptoms between visits.

After your doctor is done performing the CBE, he or she will also perform a pelvic exam which will actually feel your ovaries. Is this clinical assessment, your doctor is looking for enlargement or swelling in the pelvic region. Some pelvic masses can be a sign of ovarian cancer, but don't be too alarmed.....most women will develop a pelvic mass or ovarian cyst at some point in their lives and many go away on their own during the course of menstrual cycle and at times some don't (I will share my personal story about my ovarian cyst diagnoses on a future blog post). Moreover, after the pelvic exam, the doctor may perform a pap smear that only checks for Cervical Cancer not Ovarian Cancer.

The purpose of the pap smear is to collect enough specimen from the cervix area to evaluate for abnormalities specifically for precancerous and cancerous changes.

The pap smear itself does not detec for STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), but your doctor may choose to collect samples of the fluid around the cervix to test for Gonorrhea or Chlamydia.

(Note: The blog post is an educational piece and give's my perspective, but please always remember to follow with a professional medical provider for proper care.)

Feel free to leave a question and I will answer to the best of my capability. 

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