When you only see your gynecologist once a year, it’s important to use your appointment time wisely. Be prepared to discuss your concerns and take advantage of their expertise.
Your gynecologist is your most critical resource when it comes to female health. Through puberty, pregnancies, menopause, and beyond, there are certain questions you need to ask your gynecologist. Their answers will help you to detect potential problems early and develop habits that benefit your reproductive health, sexual health, and overall wellness.
Being a good patient requires more than showing up, lying down, and answering your doctor’s routine questions until the exam ends. Actively involved patients should never be afraid to ask for more details and request additional information. Speak up and take control of your appointment so that you get what you need out of your doctor. Your gynecologist will always take the time to answer questions and concerns. Remember: no one knows your body better than you do, and if you do not tell your doctor what is going on with your body, they cannot help you.
If you are wondering which questions to ask your gynecologist before, during, and after your visit, here are the best places to start:
Can I Bring Someone with Me?
Many patients experience very real anxiety and may feel more comfortable if they bring a trusted friend or family member along, no matter their age. This person can lend support by simply being present, or act as an advocate by asking additional questions or remembering details. They can hold you accountable for putting forth questions you plan to ask if you become too nervous or embarrassed to ask them yourself.
Medical professionals normally allow at least one guest to help reduce any potential discomfort and help you better understand procedures. Ask your gynecologist if this is acceptable before your appointment.
What Screenings Do I Need to Have?
There is no typical one-size-fits-all gynecologist visit: every stage of life brings with it different tests and questions. Younger women who do not show symptoms of any risks need a Pap smear every three years starting at the age of 21 as a screening for cervical cancer. If you have ever had an abnormal PAP smear, however, you may need to re-visit your gynecologist every six months for a new test. Exposure to HPV can also increase your risk of cervical cancer, so ask your gynecologist about HPV vaccines and ways to prevent other sexually transmitted infections.
You should be performing self-breast exams at least once a month and having a clinical breast exam at least once every three years if you are under 40. For women over 40, your doctor will recommend annual mammograms to prevent breast cancer.
Ask your gynecologist which procedures are standard for your age and demographic. If you feel you may need more or less screenings, for whatever reason, you can discuss how to customize your visit to meet any specific needs.
What Are My Risks for Medical Complications or Cancer?
If you notice any changes to your body, write down your concerns before you come in for your appointment. Ask your gynecologist if these changes are normal, no matter how small they may be. If you are worried about cancer or other problems as you age, know that your doctor welcomes the chance to discuss the symptoms, side effects, and treatment options.
Though they cannot predict if you will get cancer, your gynecologist can discuss common risk factors and signs of cervical cancer, such as irregular vaginal bleeding, intense back or pelvic pain, and swelling of the legs. Your gynecologist can also answer questions about other common conditions like endometriosis, osteoporosis, incontinence or bladder problems, or physical changes as you approach menopause.
If your doctor has recommended any kind of further treatment, feel free to ask about other options, potential risks, and expected results.
Our staff at The Woman’s Clinic believes that you should have access to high-quality care that covers all of your gynecological issues and needs. If you have any questions, or if you need a new gynecologist in Little Rock, contact The Woman’s Clinic at (501) 664-4131 to set up an appointment.
*photo courtesy of yvainethefallen through Flikr