As you move into menopause it may be tempting to skip regular pelvic exams. However, whether you’re planning to work through menopause naturally or will be taking hormonal supplements, it’s critical that you maintain a regular schedule of pelvic exams for cancer screening. Your menopause pelvic exam can be part of your yearly physical. You may age out of the need for this exam over time.
“The primary benefit of regular pelvic exams during and after the menopausal process is early detection of any cancerous growths”
Why You Should Have a Pelvic Exam During Your Menopausal Years?
Our risk of cancer increases as we age, and regular pelvic exams will make it easier to check the health of your cervix, uterus and ovaries. The menopause pelvic exam may also include a check of your rectum to confirm the tissue between the vagina and rectum are healthy.
The primary benefit of regular pelvic exams during and after the menopausal process is early detection of any cancerous growths. While no pelvic exam is completely comfortable, be sure to tell your doctor if you are no longer sexually active.
How to Know If You Need a Pelvic Exam?
Doctors recommend that you get a pap test every three years. Once you reach the age of 65 and have had three negative pap tests, your doctor may release you from the need for these exams.
If you remain sexually active up to and past the age of 65 and experience discomfort or bleeding, Dr. Jocelyn Craig recommends scheduling an appointment with your OB-GYN.
“During your pelvic exam, your doctor will also check your uterus for any inflammation or possible tumor growth”
What Kinds of Pelvic Exam You Should Undergo?
Your pelvic exam should include a pap smear or check of the cervix for pre-cancerous cells. You will also need to be screened for HPV, or human papillomavirus. If you are not sexually active or have only one partner, your doctor may not require the HPV test.
During your pelvic exam, your doctor will also check your uterus for any inflammation or possible tumor growth. Your fallopian tubes will be checked, as will your vaginal tissue. Your doctor may also check your rectum.
What to Prepare Before a Pelvic Exam?
Don’t engage in intercourse, insert anything into your vagina, or douche before a pelvic exam for at least 24 hours before the test. Depending on where you are in the menopausal process, you may occasionally still have a period. Try to schedule your exams when you will not be menstruating, but if your schedule is erratic and hard to track, be ready to move the exam date.
There’s little preparation to be done before a pelvic exam. If you have a regular douching schedule, simply shower thoroughly so you can feel as clean as possible and can relax during the exam. Tension will likely make the process more uncomfortable.
How Often Should You Go for a Pelvic Exam?
Women from the age of 21 or the age they become sexually active until the age of 65 should have pelvic exams every three years. During childbearing years, your physician may require more regular exams. Additionally, those who need prescriptions for birth control may need to be examined more often.
“if you notice a sudden or uncomfortable bloating not related to the digestive process, consider a pelvic exam”
What Symptoms You Should Watch For Between Pelvic Exams?
It is not abnormal to have an occasional period during the menopausal process. However, if you experience spotting or heavy bleeding after your periods have stopped, schedule an appointment for a pelvic exam. Other symptoms to watch out for include discomfort during intercourse, slow or painful urination, and general pelvic pain.
Additionally, if you notice a sudden or uncomfortable bloating not related to the digestive process, consider a pelvic exam. Tumor growth in the uterus can lead to fluid build-up and may cause sudden constipation or pain when emptying the bowels. Luckily, uterine cancer is often contained and, if caught early, can often be treated successfully.
If you undergo an annual physical, the addition of a pelvic exam every three years is not an onerous process. For women who stay sexually active, particularly those who have multiple partners, regular pelvic exams, pap smears and STD testing are critical.
If you notice any pain during intercourse, problems voiding your bladder or sudden changes in bowel movements, consider scheduling a pelvic exam to confirm the health of your uterus.
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