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It’s true – every woman, every year should get a complete physical, including a pap smear and breast exam beginning when a woman becomes sexually active.  It’s also true that a lot of women don’t visit their doctor for their annual exams and will even avoid going for several years in a row.  Men don’t need invasive annual physicals every year until they reach age forty, so why do women have to start going to their gynecologists every year from an early age?

Unfortunately, women have a slew of medical problems that can come from just being a woman.  There are so many ailments that can affect a woman’s reproductive system alone that being checked yearly is imperative!  Obviously, a pap smear will test for cervical cancer.  There are, however, so many other things that a doctor or gynecologist must test for during an exam and some of these ailments, sadly, are fairly common.

Every year your doctor should examine your breasts for lumps or irregularities that could indicate breast cancer.  Around the age of forty, you should be having a yearly mammogram as well.  In addition to this, it is important that you do a monthly self breast exam to keep an eye out for anything unusual that should be followed up by a doctor.  Your doctor will also check for any sign of sexually transmitted diseases or infections, serious or otherwise.  Vaginal infections due to a bacteria or virus (such as yeast infections or Chlamydia) can be treated with antibiotics but can develop into more serious illnesses if not detected for an extended period of time.

An annual exam can also detect some of the more common aliments that women can have, such as endometriosis or ovarian cysts.[1]  While both of these can be extremely painful, they will usually not have any serious bearing on your general health, but can be treated to alleviate any discomfort you may be experiencing.  Your doctor will also ask you several questions in relation to your menstrual periods, such as the length and duration of your periods, how heavy they are and how often they occur.  Records kept over a period of several years can help signal your doctor to any changes in your menstrual flow and can aid in the diagnoses of many of the aforementioned diseases.

Although it is optional, sexually active women with more than one sex partner should be tested yearly for HIV.  Monogamous women have less to worry about, however, it is well known that HIV is extremely life threatening.  Treatment is available to lessen symptoms and increase life span, however, the earlier treatment is started, the better chance you have for a fuller and happier life if you are diagnosed with HIV.  Your doctor can do this easily during your annual exam and can give you peace of mind.

Any way you look at it, it is important to visit your doctor yearly to make sure that you are in good health – your body will thank you later on!



[1] Women’s General Health Problems. <http://www.marilynglenville.com/general/index.htm>

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