As women, we spend our lives aware of the importance of seeing our OB-GYN regularly. Pelvic exams are as essential to our health as an adequate diet and the proper amount of sleep.
Reproductive health is paramount. Anything having to do with changes in our menstruation cycle, vaginal discharge, birth control, pregnancy related issues, and discomforts during sex are discussed with medical providers with ease. We also get the benefit of cancer screenings and breast exams.
But how does this relationship change as women get older?
Gynecological Exams in Elderly Women
When a woman reaches menopause, her body undergoes a massive amount of changes: from hot flashes to vaginal dryness, it’s the beginning of a new relationship with her gynecologist: The focus goes from reproductive health to other issues, such as urinary leakage, pelvic pain, or annual mammograms.
In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) breaks down a woman’s life cycle into timeframes: teenage years, reproductive years, perimenopausal years, and over 65 years of age. This is precisely because each period requires different approaches.
During the earlier years, the doctor takes into account the patient’s menstrual history, screens for sexually transmitted diseases if the patient is sexually active, and measures body mass index in attempts to prevent foreseeable diseases.
During the later years, a woman has less estrogen in her body, which can cause vaginal dryness, itchiness, and/or painful intercourse. All of these are issues to address with your OB-GYN. Women may also want to discuss hormone replacement therapy to help them deal with the discomfort of hot flashes.
Do You Need a Pelvic Exam Over Age 65?
One of the main reasons for an OB-GYN visit is an annual pap smear. This testing is important to screen for cervical cancer. While the vast majority of diagnosis for this type of cancer occur between the ages of 35 and 44, it’s still possible to suffer from the condition later in life: Over 15% of new cervical cancer cases are diagnosed in women over the age of 65.
However, according to Harvard’s Women’s Health Watch, if a woman has never had pre-cancerous cells, once she reaches age 65, she does not need to continue with annual pap smears.
It’s important to keep in mind that even though the risk of cervical cancer decreases substantially with age,, the risks for other types of cancer that could be screened by an OB-GYN increase, such as breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer.
Also, if a woman is sexually active past the age of 65, she should still have a pelvic exam at least once every three years.
In short, there are many factors that will determine the doctor’s approach to a senior citizen’s gynecology visit. However, one thing is certain: women do need to continue visits to their OB-GYN.
Contact us at OB-GYN Women’s Centre
At OB-GYN Women’s Centre, we want to provide you with the best possible health care services through all stages of life. Whether you’re in your reproductive years or you’re enjoying your golden years, we are here to help you.
Contact us to schedule an appointment.