The Important Role of Gynecologic Care in Women's Health
Women have varying individual needs at different ages and stages of their lives. But at every age, gynecological care is an essential component of routine health maintenance for all women—whether or not specific health concerns need to be addressed.
An ounce of prevention is always worth a pound (or much more) of cure. A gynecological checkup might reveal an issue that would otherwise have been hidden for some time. Catching health issues during the early stages allows for a potentially more favorable resolution.
If an issue is discovered, it is important to address it as soon as possible. Below are some common services, procedures and tests that are performed by gynecologists. Some of these are inpatient procedures, and others might only require short outpatient visits.
Annual Pelvic Exam
This is a routine examination performed in the gynecologist's office. Sometimes another health professional might join the gynecologist in the room during this part of the checkup. The physician will examine the vulva region as well as the vaginal opening, checking for abnormalities. Then, the physician will assess the interior of the vagina and the opening to the uterus, which is known as the cervix. A speculum is used to hold open the vaginal area during this procedure. This exam is typically accompanied by a feeling of pressure, as the walls of the cervix and vagina are also examined.
This test uses a flexible fiber-optic telescope to analyze the bladder of a woman. Women who experience frustrating issues with their bladders might be candidates for this painless in-office procedure. The test performs a thorough analysis of the specific issue affecting the bladder, in order to determine the best course of action or next steps, such as surgery or changing medicines. As urine is a fundamental part of this testing procedure, a patient will need to arrive for the procedure with a full bladder. A catheter will be utilized during this procedure to accurately measure urine amounts along with the pressure of the bladder.
D & C Procedure - Dilation and Curettage
A D & C might be performed for different reasons, but the overall goal of the procedure is to remove abnormal tissues from the uterine lining. The dilation part of the procedure refers to first stage of the surgery, in which the cervix is expanded to allow the procedure to be performed. Later, the physician uses a spoon-shaped implement to scrape out the uterine lining. This procedure might be conducted under general anesthesia, or a patient might stay awake under an epidural or spinal anesthetic. This procedure is sometimes recommended as a result of abnormal bleeding, issues after pregnancy, or on an assessment basis for fertility issues or potential cancers.
You likely know someone who has undergone a partial or total hysterectomy. The potential causes for hysterectomies are numerous and include such issues as: fibroids, blockage, cancers, abnormal bleeding, and more. Hysterectomies remove the uterus. Different types of hysterectomies might additionally remove other parts of the reproductive system as well, such as the cervix, fallopian tubes, and/or ovaries. Physicians make decisions about the level of a hysterectomy on a case-by-case basis. This is a procedure that is typically performed in a hospital or similar medical facility. During recovery, a patient will be asked to avoid strenuous physical activity and to wait for clearance to return to work.
LEEP - Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure
This procedure removes certain cells and tissues in a woman's genital tract, using a wire loop which has been heated by an electric current. This procedure might be used for diagnostic and/or treatment purposes, for potential cancer or other issues of abnormal cells. During a LEEP procedure, the physician will sometimes use a tool called a colposcope to magnify the tissues. The cervix might be cleaned with an acetic acid, or vinegar solution, which would make potentially abnormal tissues more visible as they would turn white. During this acetic acid step, some women might experience a mild burning sensation. The electric current from the LEEP procedure will seal the blood vessels, helping to reduce any bleeding, although a woman might notice a bit of mild discharge for a few days following the procedure.
Current recommendations for women aged 21-65 suggest a Pap test once every three years. Women with specific risk factors might routinely receive Pap tests more often. A Pap test will screen for abnormal cells that could be associated with cervical cancer. Women should avoid any activities that might cause inflammation to the vaginal area for 24 hours before the Pap test. This will help to prevent any inaccurate false positives. Additionally, women should try to avoid going for a Pap test during menstruation, as this could affect the accuracy of the test. A Pap test is usually performed during a pelvic exam, as a sample of cervical cells is obtained on a small brush, to be tested later for any issues.
A pelvic ultrasound may be called by many different names, such as a "pelvic scan," "lower abdominal ultrasound," and "transvaginal ultrasound." This scan utilizes a transducer that emits high-frequency ultrasound waves, which pass through the body. These waves passing through the body are actually sound waves, which reflect back to the transducer to create images of the interior organs and structures. A transabdominal ultrasound is performed with a transducer placed on the outside of the body, as the sound waves pass through the belly. A transvaginal ultrasound utilizes a transducer which is placed inside the vagina to create an image. These different types of ultrasounds might be used for different purposes, depending on the assessments required by the ordering gynecologist.
West Suburban Medical Center offers quality gynecological care to women of all ages in Oak Park, Illinois. If you're a woman of any age, make sure to seek regular gynecological care at your local provider's office. If you’re in need of a women’s healthcare provider, please contact us at West Suburban Medical Center’s Women’s Health Center, where you'll find a caring physician that will address your needs.