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Annual Gyn Exam:

Although no one likes to have a gyn or pelvic exam done, it's very important to your health now and in the future. The exam helps to make sure that your reproductive organs are healthy and helps your doctor to detect medical conditions (such as infections or abnormal Pap smears) that could become serious if not treated.

Will It Hurt?

The pelvic examination will not hurt. Many women describe the experience as a sensation of crowding or fullness in the vagina; however, there should be no pain. Sometimes a woman will feel discomfort, especially if she is tense. The key to the pelvic exam is relaxation. Take slow, deep breaths and try to distract your mind to help you relax.

The Pap Test

During your exam, you will also be given a Pap test, which is a screening test that helps your doctor detect cellular changes in your cervix (the opening to the womb at the end of the vagina). You hear the term all the time and mostly you don't think much about it unless you get the dreaded call saying that your pap test is abnormal but do you know the facts about pap tests?

For example, even if your Pap test shows abnormal cells, it doesn't necessarily mean you have cancer. In fact, about one in ten Pap test results show some kind of abnormality. In addition to cancer, reasons for abnormal results include inflammation, infection, hormonal changes and the presence of pre-cancerous cells.

Premenstrual Syndrome

PMS consists of various physical and/or emotional symptoms that occur in the second half of the menstrual cycle, after ovulation. It is characterised by premenstrual discomfort in the lower abdomen and back, and in the breasts. All these features precede the period by a week or ten days. Fortunately, a woman obtains relief when her menstrual period begins. Another feature of PMS is a symptom-free time for several days every month, in the first half of the menstrual cycle.

Features: These include physical features like acne, backache, bloating, sore breasts, and headache. Emotional symptoms might include changes in sexual desire, difficulty concentrating, and irritability.

Women may gain upto a kg. of weight or more in the latter part of the menstrual cycle due to water retention in the body. Emotional stress often contributes to the symptoms.

The only saving grace in this problem is that few women experience all these symptoms! Most have a few that recur each month.

The symptoms of certain medical conditions can resemble PMS. These conditions include allergies, depression, diabetes, dysmenorrhoea (painful periods), endometriosis, fibrocystic breast disease, and thyroid problems.

There's still some disagreement about what causes PMS, but it definitely seems to be linked to hormones. A relative lack of the hormone progesterone is suspected along with increase in a water retaining substance called anti diuretic hormone.

Gynecologic Oncology

What is gynecological cancer?

Gynecological cancer is cancer that afflicts the reproductive organs of a woman. There are many forms of gynecological cancer, but the most common include:

  •  Cervical Cancer

  • Vagina or Vulva Cancer

  • Uterine or Endometrial Cancer

  • Ovarian Cancer

Gynecological Cancer: Who is at Risk?

Though gynecological cancers can affect any woman, some women may be at greater risk. Recognizing the risk factors in your life can help you take advantage of available health screenings that can detect problems before they become serious. Even more important, many risk factors signal a need to change your lifestyle – by taking control and eliminating behaviours or conditions that can lead to cancer.

Risks vary depending on the type of cancer, but there are some common threads.

Your risk may be higher when:

  • You’re at or beyond the age of menopause (50+)

  • You have a family history of ovarian cancer or cancers of the uterus, colon or breast

  • You have never been pregnant or have had infertility problems

  • You are obese

  • You have hypertension, diabetes, chronic vulval irritation, or late menopause

  • You use the medication tamoxifen or use unopposed estrogen

  • You don’t have regular Pap screenings

  • You smoke

  • You have had multiple sexual partners

  • You first had intercourse before the age of sixteen

  •  You are infected with HIV or HPV

Taking good care of yourself and following your physician’s recommendations for regular care and screenings can go along way toward avoiding cancer and other diseases.

Warning Signs of Gynecologic Cancer

What Can You Do?

You can help protect your good health by having annual gynecological examinations and Pap tests. Discuss any concerns or changes with your doctor. Though gynecological cancers do not always have obvious symptoms, there are some signs for which you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Consult a Doctor if you have:

  • A sore that doesn’t heal

  • Unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge

  • A thickening or lump that either causes pain or can be seen or felt

  • Persistent indigestion

  • Pain in the pelvic area

  • Changes in bowel or bladder habits

If these or other symptoms require evaluation or care, your primary care physician or obstetrician/gynecologist may recommend that you see a gynecological oncologist, a specialist in caring for women with cancers of the reproductive system.

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