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MAINTAINING YOUR CERVICAL HEALTH IS IMPORTANT FOR WOMEN OF ALL AGES

Did you know that nearly 13,000 women are diagnosed with Cervical Cancer each year in the United States alone? January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, a time to take the opportunity to learn how to monitor your own cervical health for early detection of cervical cancer and human papillomavirus (HPV) related issues. It is important to stay up-to-date with cervical cancer screening recommended by your OB-GYN provider based on your age. Stay in touch with your body – here are common recommendations for women of all ages:

AGES 9-26

It’s time to get your Gardasil Immunization to prevent infection and transmission of the most common strains of HPV (Human Papilloma Virus, the most common cause of cervical dysplasias and cervical cancers). No cervical screening is recommended for young women before age 21.

AGES 21-29

When you turn 21, it’s time to start with regular cervical cytology – commonly known as the Pap test or Pap smear - every three years. If your results are ASCUS (borderline between normal and abnormal), your doctor may recommend HPV triage, which is done using the same cells taken at your screening and will look for any high-risk HPV infections. This approach may be taken between ages 21 and 24 and it is preferable between ages 25 and 29.

AGES 30-65

At age 30 it is recommended to maintain cervical cytology alone every three years, or to get co-testing, cytology and viral culture, every five years.

AGES 65 AND BEYOND

Once you reach age 65, no cervical screening is needed if prior testing has been normal. 

 

Of course, your gynecologist will chart your plan of care based on your personal screening history – it can vary, but annual care is most important!

 

Learn more about cervical health and cancer warning signs from the CDC. 

Learn more about HPV screening and safety from the CDC. 

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Did you know that 1 in 3 women suffer from or will develop a pelvic floor disorder during their lifetime?

Pelvic floor disorders are problems related to bladder, bowel and sexual function. They include different types of urine leakage (incontinence) or bladder control problems like going frequently, getting up at night to urinate, or getting strong, uncontrollable urges to urinate. Pelvic floor disorders also include problems related to the bowels such as accidental loss of gas or stool. Finally, a condition known as prolapse, which is a feeling that the pelvic organs (bladder, uterus, vagina or rectum) are bulging or falling out, is also a pelvic floor disorder.

The risk for pelvic floor disorders increases with age. While these conditions are often linked to having children, there are other reasons they can develop. There are also many conditions that make pelvic floor disorders worse that can be managed with relative ease. Many women suffer silently from these conditions. They assume that these conditions are a normal part of the aging process. They also assume that because their mother or sister had it, then they are destined to get it too.

Fortunately pelvic floor disorder are not life threatening. They primarily affect a woman’s quality of life. That means that they do not have to be treated right away. Depending on how bothersome the condition is, a watch and wait approach is often acceptable. However, a thorough evaluation is needed first to ensure it is safe to wait.

Once a pelvic floor disorder affects a woman’s quality of life, there are a number of treatment options available. Many of these options are conservative and non-invasive like lifestyle, behavior, or diet changes. Other treatments include medications, physical therapy and surgery in some cases. Each woman is different; therefore each woman’s treatment plan will be different.

Be open with your doctor about your symptoms and ask about treatment options. You can also ask about seeing a specialist and request a referral if needed. There are qualified specialists in your area that are willing to help you break free from pelvic floor disorders.

This article was originally published on October 20, 2014, and was updated on March 30, 2017.

For years, women have relied on pads or tampons during their period. But, recently menstrual cups have become more popular and more widely available. A menstrual cup is a flexible cup that is designed for use inside the vagina during your period to collect the menstrual blood. Menstrual cups are usually made of medical grade silicone, but some can be made from latex.

You can use a cup throughout your entire cycle, some users only need to empty it once every 12 hours, and some empty it more often on their heavier days.

A menstrual cup is a more expensive up-front purchase than a box of tampons or pads, however it can last for up to ten years, providing you with a significant cost-savings, and less waste. You also get more time between changes.

It’s also surprisingly easy to use. If you currently use tampons, or have used a diaphragm, you should have little trouble learning to use a cup. It folds up to a size similar to a tampon for insertion. When properly inserted, the wearer shouldn’t feel it at all, much like using a tampon.

There are some potential drawbacks to using a cup. Some women aren’t comfortable inserting them or have fit problems. That’s OK! A menstrual cup isn’t for everyone, but it’s an alternative for women looking for something different.

If you have any questions about a menstrual cup, ask during your next routine gynecological exam. Your provider can help you determine if you should give a menstrual cup a try and can help alleviate any concerns you may have.