Thirteen thousand. That’s how many women in the US died of cervical cancer in 2019, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Among female cancers, 30% of are breast cancer. Both of these cancers can be caught in their early stages and successfully treated with an annual women's health exam.
At AGP Family Clinic, family medicine practitioner and preventive medicine physician Dr. Richard Pedroza and his team provide screening services for their female patients in the Tomball, Texas, area that helps protect their reproductive and overall health. If you’re wondering why you need a women’s health exam, here’s the team’s response.
A women’s health exam, also known as a well-woman exam, is an annual physical, but it also includes checking the reproductive organs and testing for common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). There are several components.
Dr. Pedroza takes a detailed medical history, including information about diseases you’ve had, your family history, and your sexual activity. If this isn’t your first well-woman exam, he asks you to update him with any new problems or symptoms.
Next, he performs a basic physical exam, taking measurements of height, weight, heart rate, and blood pressure. He may also do a blood draw to ensure your blood count is normal, you’re not diabetic or prediabetic, your thyroid function is OK, and you don’t show any signs of elevated cholesterol or other symptoms of heart disease.
Dr. Pedroza visually inspects your breasts and presses on the breast tissue and under your armpits to identify any unusual lumps, textures, or swollen lymph nodes. Regardless of his findings, he may give you a referral for a mammogram, an X-ray of the breast to screen for breast cancer, which may catch something too small for him to feel.
During the pelvic exam, Dr. Pedroza examines your reproductive organs, including your ovaries, uterus, cervix, vagina, and vulva. You still need a pelvic exam even if your ovaries and uterus have been removed, as it can detect precancerous cells in the vagina and remaining cervical tissues.
To perform a Pap smear, which screens for cervical cancer, the doctor inserts a speculum to hold the vaginal walls open and give him access to your cervix. He gently scrapes some cells from the cervix and sends them to a lab to be screened for any abnormal cells.
If you need STD testing, such as for herpes, gonorrhea, HPV, or chlamydia, the doctor takes a sample of the mucus around your cervix to be inspected at the same time.
Dr. Pedroza then examines your uterus and ovaries. He inserts one or two lubricated fingers into your vagina and then presses down on your lower abdomen with the other hand to detect any abnormalities. This test is especially important for women over 40, when the risks of ovarian and uterine cancer are higher.
If you’re concerned about unwanted pregnancies and STDs, Dr. Pedroza can discuss your contraceptive options with you. Contraception is particularly important when you approach menopause and your periods become less regular.
If you’re around 40-45, chances are you’re going to be heading into perimenopause, the transitional period before you reach full menopause, the end of your fertility. Dr. Pedroza can discuss the risks and benefits of using some form of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to restore the estrogen and progesterone hormones whose levels decrease during this time.
If it’s been awhile since you’ve had a women’s health exam, it’s time to come into AGP Family Clinic to ensure all parts of your body are healthy and functioning well. To get started, give our office a call at 832-684-3909, or book online with us today.