Many women falsely believe that they do not need to keep up their regular gynaecologist appointment after they reach the age of 65. The reason can be attributed to a common belief that they no longer require the annual Pap test to check for cervical cancer.
However, according to health experts, the annual gynaecologist check-up is important for women to maintain their medical wellbeing. Even though the dangers of cervical cancer are averted after the 55 years’ mark, women are still exposed to the risk of other cancers such as breast, ovarian, uterine, etc. In fact, if you have a family history of cancer then your best defence against the disease is regular vigilance.
What Does Each Visit Entail?
What you will be checked for in your gynaecologist appointment may vary from doctor to doctor. However, in most cases, the following aspects are covered:
- Physical evaluation: The exam is geared towards testing your overall health that includes everything from your blood pressure to healthy body weight. The exam also checks for enlarged organs in your abdomen.
- Pap Test: A woman over 65 with a normal sexual life and cervix will need to go through the Pap test after every three years.
- Breast Assessment: Your doctor will check your previous medical records and family history for breast related ailments. They will also help you understand the importance of being self-aware and recommend a mammogram for further testing. The mammogram is conducted to check for abnormalities and lumps. You can also learn from your doctor how to perform a self-examination from time to time.
- Pelvic exam: This three-part exam involves evaluation of vulva, the assessment of the vagina, and the cervix. The doctor also checks the reproductive organs to identify abnormalities, if any. You can choose to skip the internal examination if you have recently had a hysterectomy, you are asymptomatic, or generally healthy. However, the decision should eventually be made as per your doctor’s recommendation.
- Symptom Evaluation: Your gynaecologist will check for urinary diseases, vaginal dryness, discomfort, urinary leakage, bowel changes etc. among other things.
- Screenings and vaccinations. During this test, your doctor will check for your bone density and if you have received your vaccine shots on time. They will also discuss some important things about preventive care taking your age and other risks into account.
- Counselling: This is the best time to discuss with your doctor any problems you may have. Be prepared to have an open discussion about your body weight, maintaining an active lifestyle, healthy living etc. You should tell the doctor of any recent changes in medication or if you had experienced bone fracture lately. Your doctor will enquire about your family’s medical history so share everything honestly. Don’t be hesitant to talk about your sexual life, intimacy etc.
Your annual exam with the gynaecologist is an important part of your healthcare. With a thorough exam, your doctor may be able to identify a potential problem that may not be detected otherwise.