Women tend to be the first to take care of everybody else and sometimes the last to take care of ourselves. Chrys Peterson talked with Brittany Denny, DO, an obstetrician/gynecologist with ProMedica Physicians about how women should practice self-care through their annual wellness exams.
Chrys Peterson: We know the pap screening guidelines have changed. You don’t necessarily need to have a pap smear every year now. But why should women still come and see you every year, Dr. Denny?
Dr. Denny: There’s still so many reasons to come see the gynecologist every year. I think when ladies hear they don’t need the actual pap test every year that they think they don’t need to see their gynecologist every year, anymore. But as a gynecologist, we still do the pelvic exam and that means we’re looking and feeling your anatomy. We’re still the only providers that really screen for vulvar cancer, vaginal cancer, uterine and ovarian cancers. I think people sometimes get mixed up between a pelvic exam and a pap smear. A pap smear is not done during every pelvic exam. But the pelvic exam is what should be done at least every year.
It’s really important, too, because as a woman you might not notice changes because they come on gradually and maybe you just kind of get used to it. Maybe an ache or pain or something that doesn’t quite look right. But to you, year to year, you might see a big difference in something like that.
Definitely, just in visual inspection we can look for skin changes that might not have been there the year before. Also, in the bimanual exam, we can feel the ovaries and the uterus and notice if there’s any changes or new developments of any masses.
Sometimes the gynecologist is serving as almost a primary care physician for a lot of women. Some women don’t have other doctors that they go see for other things.
As a gynecologist, we still talk to our patients about healthy diet, getting exercise, and weight management. And also we help direct them regarding calcium and vitamin D supplementation to prevent osteoporosis. We do a full physical exam including a breast exam and ordering a mammogram every year.