Be prepared for your next visit to the gynecologist with this checklist:
Ask whether you're using the right form for you. For example, the pill might not be the best option if you smoke, are physically inactive, and are over 35.
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Testing for STDs is not part of the Pap smear; ask your doctor which STDs (HIV, chlamydia, or gonorrhea, for example) you should be screened for.
You should get one annually, starting at age 40 (earlier if you have a family history of breast cancer).
- Pap Smear
Ask for the new ThinPrep test, which more accurately shows cell abnormalities. Your doctor takes the sample the usual way, then dips it into a solution that breaks down the mucus, blood and inflammation that can make it hard to see the cervical cells.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
New guidelines suggest that if your results are inconclusively abnormal (called ASC-US), you should be tested for HPV strains that can cause cervical cancer.
Tell your doctor if you've had heavier or more-painful-than-usual periods, which may be a sign of fibroids.
- The Rest of the Exam
Your visit should include a pelvic and rectal exam to check for signs of vaginal infections, uterine fibroids, STDs or ovarian cysts.
Next: Dentist Checklist