Find out what screenings are available to check for HPV and HPV-related disease.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a virus that affects millions of Americans most often during the late teen years and early 20s. With the rise of HPV infections over the years it’s now more important than every for women to get routine screenings to check for HPV-related diseases such as cervical cancer. This is yet another reason why young women should visit their OBGYN at least once a year for routine checkups.
What are the symptoms of HPV?
Some types of HPV cause genital warts, a cluster of small bumps that appear in the genital area. They often appear weeks or months after being exposed to the virus. Genital warts may go away on their own without treatment or they may get worse; however, genital warts aren’t usually cancerous.
Unfortunately, most people will never know that they HPV because the viral infection usually does not cause symptoms. The body will often just shed the infection after a couple of years; however, there are certain HPV infections that can affect the cells and lead to cervical cancer.
What goes into getting an HPV screening?
There are two types of tests that your gynecologist can perform during your next visit to look for warning signs of HPV. The most common test is a Pap smear, which involves collecting cells from the cervix to check for changes or abnormalities. If pre-cancerous lesions are present or if cervical cancer is found early enough, treatment is very successful.
A Pap smear is performed right in your gynecologist’s office and it only takes a couple of minutes to collect the cells necessary for analysis. It’s important that you talk with your gynecologist about getting a cervical cancer screening and how often you should get screened. Women who’ve had abnormal Pap smear results in the past may need to be screened more regularly than women who’ve never had abnormal results. Your age will also dictate how often you should be screened.
HPV co-testing can be performed at the same time as the Pap smear. The only difference is that when the cells are collected the test will check for the presence of the virus rather than detecting changes in the cervical cells.
What does the HPV vaccine protect against?
According to the CDC, approximately 32,500 men and women are diagnosed with HPV-related cancers. By getting the HPV vaccine you could prevent cancer from happening to you. This vaccine could also prevent the need for HPV testing every year. Since it can be difficult to screen for certain cancers caused by HPV (particularly cancer of the rectum or throat), getting vaccinated could protect your teenager from these cancers in the future.
Do you have questions about getting the HPV vaccine for you or your teenager? Need to schedule your annual gynecological checkup? If so, turn to your OBGYN today and ask whether an HPV vaccine is a good option for your health.
Do you deal with ovarian cysts often? Wondering if this is the cause of your abdominal pain?
All women will experience abdominal pain at some point during their lifetime. Most of the time it’s due to menstruation; however, there are other causes that could be to blame for your abdominal pain. When this happens it can be a bit unsettling, especially if you’ve never experienced abdominal pain before; however, your OBGYN is here to tell you whether your pain could be due to ovarian cysts.
Ovarian cysts are very common, affecting most women during their childbearing years. Most of the time they are completely harmless (it is very rare that an ovarian cyst is cancerous).
Often, ovarian cysts develop and you don’t even know they are there; however, some women experience a sharp or dull pain in the abdomen when an ovarian cyst is present. If the cyst becomes large enough it could cause the ovary to twist, which can cause sudden but intermittent pain on one side. If the cyst bursts, this can result in sudden and severe pain.
If your gynecologist suspects that your symptoms could be due to ovarian cysts the best way to diagnose these cysts is through a pelvic exam or by performing an ultrasound. The ultrasound will allow your doctor to examine the abdomen in detail to see if cysts are present.
How are ovarian cysts treated?
Most of the time your doctor will just monitor your condition and tell you to come back in if the pain gets worse or changes. Sometimes you’ll come back in for repeat imaging tests to see if the cyst has gotten larger. Most of the time these cysts will just go away on their own after a month or two.
However, if the cyst is very large or if it’s causing severe pain and other symptoms then it may need to be removed. This is something your OBGYN will discuss with you. A cystectomy is a minimally invasive surgery that is done laparoscopically, in which a small incision is made in the abdomen and performed through a very small fiber-optic instrument that boasts smaller incisions that traditional surgery and a faster recovery time.
If you are dealing with unexplained and persistent abdominal pain it’s important that you have a gynecologist you can turn to for answers. It’s always best to get a medical opinion if you are concerned about any new pain or discomfort. A doctor will be able to determine if it’s an ovarian cyst (or something else) and help you create an effective treatment plan that will manage your pain.
Usually around the time that women reach their late 40s or early 50s, they may notice changes occurring in their body. This is because the reproductive hormones, estrogen and progesterone, are no longer being produced within the body. This transitional phase is known as menopause and while some women may go through menopause without any symptoms or issues, some women deal with a variety of unpleasant and even severe symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, and joint pain.
While hot flashes are the most common complaint when it comes to menopause symptoms, there are a variety of issues that women can experience including:
- Muscle/joint pain
- Irritability, depression, and anxiety
- Vaginal infections
- Loss of sex drive
- Sexual pain
- Vaginal dryness
- Urinary incontinence or leakage
- Night sweats
- Poor concentration and memory (“mental fog”)
If you are a middle-aged woman who hasn’t had a period in over one year and is dealing with these issues, you could be facing menopause. Of course, it’s important that you have an OBGYN that you can turn to if symptoms become too challenging to handle on your own. While a gynecologist can certainly recommend a variety of lifestyle modifications and simple ways to alleviate symptoms, sometimes more aggressive treatment is necessary.
Certain lifestyle modifications may include exercising regularly, getting enough sleep each night or avoiding alcohol to help with depression, anxiety, and mood swings. Your gynecologist can prescribe a lubricant to help with vaginal dryness and discomfort. Physical therapy or certain medical treatments may be prescribed to improve the function of the pelvic floor to reduce urinary leakage and incontinence.
Many menopausal women dealing with menopausal symptoms can experience relief through hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Since the body is no longer producing estrogen and progesterone, HRT will serve to restore those hormones back into the body to reduce common symptoms such as hot flashes. Furthermore, HRT has been shown to reduce bone loss caused by osteoporosis, which is common in women post-menopause. Plus, HRT is also known to reduce common symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness and pain.
There are a few different ways in which HRT can be administered. Estrogen can come in the form of a gel, cream, spray, patch, or pill. Of course, systemic estrogen has been proven to be the most effective way to target symptoms of menopause.
Women dealing with severe hot flashes or other menopausal symptoms, women who are prone to osteoporosis or fractures, and women who experience menopause before the age of 40 may want to consider getting hormone replacement therapy.
If you are sexually active, getting regular STI screenings is a crucial and proactive practice to adopt for both your health and the health of your future partners. It’s important to know if you have an STI so that the infection can be treated or managed before more serious health complications set in. While using condoms, being monogamous and avoiding risky behaviors can go a long way to keeping you healthy and safe from infection, it’s important that everyone who is sexually active continue to get screened, no matter their age.
When To Get Tested
It’s important to get routine screenings even if you feel fine and aren’t experiencing symptoms, as many people with STIs don’t ever experience symptoms. Even when symptoms do arise it’s easy to mistake them for less serious issues such as the common cold or flu virus. Did you know that some STIs present with a fever, sore throat and muscle aches? What might seem like the regular influenza virus could actually be an STI. Furthermore, it’s not that uncommon to be exposed to more than one STI at a time. So, you could have multiple infections and not know it.
While a lot of people feel nervous or even embarrassed to get STI screenings, having an OBGYN or medical doctor that you trust is the most important. Trust us; they’ve heard it all, so you should feel comfortable talking to your doctor about your sexual health. Being as honest as possible about your current or past sexual history is important to make sure you get the proper medical care.
Even though untreated STIs can lead to more serious health problems down the road, the good news is that many STIs can easily be treated if the infection is caught early enough. Even incurable STIs like hepatitis, herpes, and HIV can be managed through simple lifestyle changes and medications to reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms and to improve your quality of life.
Even if you come in once a year for a wellness checkup or Pap smear, this doesn’t mean that you are getting screened for an STI. Of course, during your routine exam you can ask to also be screened for STIs. If you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, having an untreated STI can cause serious health risks for your unborn child.
It’s important that you get regular STI testing to ensure that you and your partners enjoy a safe and healthy lifestyle!
Getting older means overcoming many different obstacles as your life and your body change. But you must deal with one that is uniquely female: menopause and the symptoms that come with it. You know the symptoms commonly associated with menopause—hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, difficulty sleeping, vaginal dryness—but did you know that they are treatable and that menopause doesn’t have to be insurmountable?
If you have moderate to severe symptoms, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is an effective treatment for hot flashes and can also help elevate vaginal dryness and mood issues. It has traditionally been administered with pills like birth control, but also like birth control it can now be taken through patches, creams, gels, and vaginal rings. If you have not had a hysterectomy, you could be prescribed estrogen and progesterone, called combination HRT. If you have had a hysterectomy, estrogen alone would be prescribed.
Not all women are candidates for HRT. Those who have breast or uterine cancer, blood clots, heart or liver disease, or have had a stroke would be better candidates for the following options.
Vaginal estrogen is a lower dose of estrogen that comes as a cream, tablet, or ring and is placed in the vagina to treat vaginal dryness if you don’t have hot flashes. Vaginal lubricants and moisturizers are non-prescription options to treat dryness as well. Lubricants can help decrease friction and ease intercourse, but be sure to only use water-soluble products designed for the vagina to avoid irritating tender tissue. Moisturizers can improve or maintain vaginal moisture if you have mild vaginal atrophy and can also keep your pH level low, ensuring a healthy vaginal environment. They can also be used regularly with longer-lasting effects than lubricants.
Prescription antidepressant medications are often used to treat mood problems, like depression, with relatively few side effects. They have also been used to treat hot flashes. However, if you are having mood issues, be sure to talk with your doctor to identify the cause and decide on the best treatment.
You’d be surprised how far simple lifestyle changes, like eating a healthy diet and regularly exercising, can go in minimizing menopause symptoms. Wearing light-weight pajamas, using layered bedding that can easily be removed, and using a fan in your bedroom can help with night sweats while keeping a regular sleep schedule and nighttime routine can make falling asleep and staying asleep easier.
The onset of menopause is a big change, and dealing with its symptoms can be daunting. But you don’t have to take on this new phase in your life alone. No matter if you are suffering severe symptoms or you just have some questions of what to expect as you get older, our office is here to help. Call to schedule your appointment today.
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