A painless quick PAP test (named after the human papillomavirus-HPV) can detect abnormal tissue, HPV infection that can lead to cervical cancer. High risks for developing abnormal cervical tissue or cervical cancer include: intercourse at an early age, multiple partners, history of the sexually transmitted diseases (STD)- genital warts (caused by HPV virus) or herpes, HIV injection or immune deficiency (ex. transplant recipient). Also smoking has been associated wither casual or directly with abnormal cervical tissue. As always you need to be totally honest with your health care provider most especially as regards your sexual history.
Generally speaking women age 21 – 29 should have a Pap test every 3 years, thereafter till age 65 every 5 years. After age 65 you can stop having a Pap test!
As in too many medical procedural tests a false positive or false-negative are possible. To decrease odds follow these simple steps: no douching, use vaginal medication, spermicide or lubrication for 3 days before the test.
If your report reveals abnormalities ask for details the specifics and the significance. Cell abnormalities can be from the outer or the inner cervix or they can contain changes of ‘low or ‘high’ grade signifying “precancer” or the test result might show cancer cells. It might not be a simple positive or negative.
You may often thought do I really need all those tests – well finally medical professionals from 17 medical societies have addressed this issue.
They have identified tests and procedures that are likely unnecessary for the 26 medical specialties. Examples of unnecessary tests from the specific medical society include:
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): Antibiotics for apparent viral respiratory illnesses such as sinusitis or bronchitis
American Academy of Neurology (AAN): Electroencephalography (EEG) for headaches
American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO): Antibiotics for pink eye
American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP): Population-based screening for vitamin D deficiency
American Urological Association (AUA): Routine bone scans in men with a low risk of prostate cancer
Society of Hospital Medicine, Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI): PET/CT scans for cancer screening in healthy individuals.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which is new to the list, recommended against performing annual Pap tests in women ages 30 to 65, since doing so offers no advantage over screening at 3-year intervals
More women than men have heart attacks! Heart disease is the No. 1 ‘killer’ in women more than all forms of cancer combined. According to the American Heart Association (AHA) ‘one in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, heart disease claims the lives of one in three. That’s roughly one death each minute’.
Here I go on my ‘soapbox’:
Heart disease affects women of all ages. Birth control pills and smoking boosts risk in young women by 20 percent. Yes risks do increase with age; things like obesity and/or inactive lifestyle contribute to clogged arteries later in life. Having high cholesterol and being thin is NOT a free ‘get of jail card’. The AHA recommends you start getting your cholesterol checked at age 20, or earlier, if your family has a history of heart disease. Also always watch your blood pressure readings.
Many women are either unaware of heart symptoms or may rationalize pains/aches as due to other causes. Examples for chest/arm, neck or jaw aches/pains include ‘my bra is too tight’, ‘I worked out too much’, ‘I over did it cleaning’. Some women experience dizziness, tiredness, lightheadedness or actually faint! Fainting without anything else is common elderly women. Know they all could be ‘screaming’ symptoms of a heart attack/disease. You do not have to have any symptoms over 60% of women who die suddenly from heart attacks NEVER had any symptoms! Yes it is possible they did have symptoms but either they themselves or their healthcare provider(s) ignored them. AGAIN women do not get the ‘classic’ chest pain described in medical books (based on studies of men).
You feel fine so you did not take time for wellness check-ups. Yes you were told they were a good idea but…
Whither you have health insurance or not there are certain wellness checkups you need annually. So read this wellness to do list and get the screening you need:
Bone density Scan (for osteoporosis)- for women over 65/men over 70, unless other health issues factor in. Yes men get osteoporosis! According to results you may need to be tested again in 1, 2 or 10 years. Painless and non invasive. ‘Porous’ bones affects over 10 million Americans.
Diabetes – over 45 & overweight you need to be checked for prediabetes. Just a quick blood test. If under 45 with one or more risk factors (high blood pressure, high cholesterol or Diabetes during pregnancy), you need the blood test.
Eye Exam – ‘Visual’ exam (what your eye sees) vs. ‘Eye’ exam (inside health of your eye) are recommended once every year or two dependent on age, medical history and findings of last exam. The eye provides tremendous information about overall health – if a trained eye looks in!
Heart Health – every one over 20 should have a ‘lipid profile’ (total cholesterol, components (HDL, LDL) and triglycerides). If you have normal values – recheck every 5 years. After age 18 blood pressure checks every 2 years if normal.
Skin Test – cancer of skin most common form of cancer in US (listen to DocHandal’s podcast). Only a dermatologist can totally check every inch of your skin start at age 21 and repeat as frequently as the Doc tells you.
Benefits of routine screening for several conditions are being reevaluated, less is becoming the new “more’. Just like the PSA blood test Doc addresses in April 1st podcast, the Pap smear is no longer going to be recommended yearly. New guidelines state most women should wait until 21 and get tested every 3 years if it is normal. However women ages 30-65 who test negative for both HPV test & Pap smear can wait 5 years. Listen Up to Doc for more about the changes and how they will effect you, your mother, daughter.
Prostate Screening through PSA blood tests every 4 years seem to cut down on death from this cancer. Recent research shows overall there is no difference in # of deaths if it is not tested every annually. An important reality – complications from prostate cancer treatment are greater than deaths from it. The latest study with resulting new guidelines straight from DocHandal – easily stated worth the listen.
Yes! Not just for women! Just approved for men this vaccine covers prevention of the HPV sexually transmitted virus that can cause cancer & genital warts. It covers 4 types of the HPV virus that in men can cause mouth and throat cancer. Learn specific details along with the exact latest vaccine recommendations by men’s ages by Listening Up to DocHandal’s podcast.
Detected early, the 3rd most common cancer in the US, could decrease the numbers – 55,000 deaths a year! Learn the causes symptoms and what you can do to decrease your odds. Take a few minutes and Listen UP! to this weeks podcast on DocHandal Speaks iTunes channel.