Self Breast ExamsFinding a lump in your breast can be terrifying, but you should know that there are other reasons for a lump to appear. An inflamed milk duct or lymph node, a benign growth or even a cyst can cause a bump to appear. To avoid any false alarms, make a habit of always examining your breasts at the same time each month. It is important to do self exams for the rest of your life, including after menopause. You can do your exams in the shower or on your back in bed, but choose one position and stick to it. Put one hand behind your head and use your free hand to inspect the entire breast, including under your arm and behind the nipple. Switch hands and check the other side. You are feeling for any irregularities, thick areas or lumps. If you find anything out of the ordinary, make an appointment with your gynecologist and try not to worry. Stress is not good for your health either, and needless concern over a non-cancerous breast change will not help you.
Annual Gynecologic ExamsIt doesn't matter if you are a 19-year-old virgin or a 90-year-old mother of six who had a hysterectomy 40 years ago, all women should see a gynecologist at least once a year unless directed otherwise. All women need to have a pap smear test to check the cervix for abnormal cells, as well as have a pelvic exam to check for any mysterious growths or lumps in the vagina or uterus. Postmenopausal women or those who have had hysterectomies still need to be checked. Any sexually active woman should also be screened for sexually transmitted diseases, depending on what her doctor recommends. Most gynecologists will also inspect the skin of the inner thighs, perineum, vulva and the cleft of the buttocks for skin changes that may be cancer precursors. Make your gynecologist appointment a priority, as none of these screenings should be considered optional.
Annual PhysicalsIf you feel fit and healthy, you may think there is no reason to see your primary care physician. This is a dangerous misconception. Your doctor needs to see you when you are feeling well in order to establish what is normal for you, as well as notice anything out of the ordinary. For example, if your doctor only sees you when you are sick, he or she may not realize you are dangerously pale when you are feeling fine. In addition to looking for signs of illness, your doctor will check your vital signs and may order routine blood work. Blood pressure problems are considered a 'silent killer,' meaning that you may have no idea it is dangerously high. Diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease can all go undetected for years and cause a lot of damage to your body.
As a busy woman, you may be tempted to let your own health screenings fall by the wayside. Make your health a priority, as early detection is critical for catching medical issues before they become life threatening.
Balcones Obstetrics & Gynecology is one of the leading OB/GYN practices in the greater Austin area. With more than 15 years of experience, Dr. Binford has treated women with a wide range of gynecological needs. For more information on women's health, connect with Balones OBGYN on Facebook and Google+.