(Posted on ChesterCountyMoms.com)

Reproductive HealthWith guidelines that have been changing about recommendations for gynecologic exams, it's easy to see why we are all so confused - as if we need something else to worry about, right? Even though the new cervical screening guidelines recommend less frequent Pap tests, it's important to realize that your yearly gynecologic exam includes more than just that test - breast, thyroid, heart, lung and pelvic exams are all included in your yearly check-up.

"Visiting your gynecologist annually is the best thing you can do for preventive health," Ob/Gyn Eduardo Mercurio, MD explains. "Even though the Pap test guidelines change, this doesn't mean that the other tests during your annual exam should be left out." Early education about any warning signs that your gynecologist may notice can make a big difference for your long-term health. Here are some problems your annual exam can uncover:

  • Endometriosis
  • Incontinence
  • Ovarian cysts/cancer
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Pelvic/vaginal pain
  • Prolapse of the uterus, bladder or rectum
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Precancerous changes of the cervix
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

In this post, we're breaking down the tests by age so you know what to have done and how often. These guidelines begin at age 18, so to all you moms - make sure your daughters are on track with these recommendations, too. Monitoring reproductive health is especially important in young women.

Ages 18-29

  • Clinical breast exam - every 3 years
  • Pap test/cervical cancer screening - starting at age 21, every 2 years
  • Pelvic exam - starting at age 21, yearly; younger than 21 and sexually active, talk to your primary care physician
  • Chlamydia test - yearly until age 25; 26 and older, get this test if you have new or multiple partners
  • Sexually transmitted infection (STI) tests - both partners should get tested before having sexual intercourse

Ages 30-39

  • Clinical breast exam - every 3 years
  • Pap test/Cervical cancer screening - every 3 years
  • Pelvic exam - yearly
  • Chlamydia test - get this test if you have new or multiple partners
  • Sexually transmitted infection (STI) tests - both partners should get tested before having sexual intercourse

Ages 40-49

  • Clinical breast exam - every 3 years
  • Mammogram - every 1-2 years
  • Pap test/Cervical cancer screening - every 3 years
  • Pelvic exam - yearly
  • Chlamydia test - get this test if you have new or multiple partners
  • Sexually transmitted infection (STI) tests - both partners should get tested before having sexual intercourse

Ages 50+

  • Clinical breast exam - every 3 years
  • Mammogram - every 1-2 years
  • Pap test - discuss with your doctor
  • Cervical cancer screening - every 3 years
  • Pelvic exam - yearly
  • Chlamydia test - get this test if you have new or multiple partners
  • Sexually transmitted infection (STI) tests - both partners should get tested before having sexual intercourse

Family History

If breast cancer is in your family history, genetic counseling may be an option to discuss breast and ovarian cancer risk. A breast MRI and ovarian cancer tests may be some other smart things to look into as well. Talk with your doctor about early screenings for anything else that may run in the family.

Chester County Hospital's Cancer Risk Evaluation Program is specifically designed for women who want genetics counseling information about their personal risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Contact The Women's Specialty Center at (610) 423-4556 for more information.


These guidelines have been adapted from www.womenshealth.gov.

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