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It’s Called an Annual for a Reason

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

It’s not news to OB/GYNs that women don’t exactly look forward to their annual exam.  We understand that it may feel more like a chore than a checkup when you’ve been told you have to do it every year.  Some experts though, have new recommendations, saying most women don’t need yearly cervical cancer screenings.  Before you start celebrating though, you may want to consider the many long-term benefits annuals have on your health.  As I have mentioned many, many times on this blog, ”A PAP SMEAR IS NOT A PELVIC EXAM.”

The new recommendations by the U. S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American Cancer Society were released March 15, 2012.   They recommend:

  • Women between ages 21 and 65 without risk factors (such as DES exposure or immunodeficiency) should undergo cytologic screening (a Pap smear) every 3 years.
  • Those aged 30 to 65 wishing to extend the screening interval could undergo screening with both cytologic exam and human papillomavirus (HPV) testing every 5 years.
  • Women younger than 21 should not be screened.
  • Women older than 65 who have been adequately screened previously should not be screened.

 The above recommendations may cause women to shirk going to their OB/GYNs for that dreaded pelvic examination because they are not having an annual Pap smear.

However, as we age, there’s no doubt our bodies change.  For the most part, those changes are normal.  Sometimes though, medical issues can develop.  Every time you go to an annual exam, you are getting checked to make sure everything is in healthy working order.  If you catch issues before they get too big, treatment and even cures can be more effective.  With the rise in so many types of cancer, you’ll want a professional checking to make sure there are no signs of tumors.  That is why pelvic exams, mammograms and cervical screenings are so important.  If you were to wait two or three years, it may be too late.  My health book, Inside Information for Women will explain all the aspects of a pelvic exam and an annual gynecologic examination.

You also have the chance during your visit with an OB/GYN to discuss your health and how it’s affecting your life, or how your life is affecting your health as the case may be, and that can bring up symptoms that you didn’t even realize were connected.  It can also provide you with valuable advice that will help you take care of your body.  With all the change people go through in a single year, it’s nice to know that someone with knowledge and compassion is there to make sure you remain in good health for many years to come.

The fact is women are such multi-taskers trained to take care of everyone that we forget to take care of ourselves. The point is, if we don’t take care of ourselves, we won’t be there to take care of others. Don’t have time for your annual checkup? It’s time that you find the time.


– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.