While the Internet can be a blessing, it can also be a curse. It’s not always easy separating fact from fiction, especially when the information you’re researching concerns women’s health. Unfortunately, the massive amount of information available can be bewildering.
Some information you find may not apply to you. Literally, there are infinite studies published on-line that can easily be misinterpreted.
Here’s a look at three common myths about women’s health:
1. A woman in her 40s who is in the premenopausal stage can’t get pregnant.
While the odds of conceiving decline in our 40s, pregnancy is still a possibility for a number of women. Records suggest up to 50 percent of pregnancies occurring in women 40+ are unplanned, making this demographic second only to teens in unplanned pregnancy! Talk to your health care provider about ways to protect against unplanned pregnancy. You might be surprised by the many available options these days, many of which can be performed in the office without surgery.
2. All women need a pap test every year.
While that has been the standard for years, the annual ritual of getting a pap smear is not true for everyone anymore. The American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology (ASCCP) has amassed sufficient evidence to advise extending the length of time between pap smears. The changes in guidelines are mostly due to improved and new knowledge about how cervical cancer progresses and its link with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV):
- Women don’t require their initial pap test until 21 years of age.
- Women ages 21 – 29 should follow a 3-year cycle of testing.
- Once a woman has turned 30, she should have a pap smear along with the test for HPV. If both tests are negative then another pap smear is not recommended for 5 years. If the pap test is negative, but HPV is present, annual pap tests are still advised.
- It may be possible to discontinue pap tests altogether for women who had total hysterectomies for reasons unrelated to cancer and for those age 65+ with a history of regular screenings.
3. Medication is the best disease prevention.
Of course, medication has a role in preventing and treating disease. However, for many types of cancer and illness there are everyday diet and lifestyle changes that can greatly influence our health and risk for a number of conditions: colon, uterine and breast cancer, as well as heart disease and diabetes. Feeling better doesn’t always come from a medication, start with regular exercise, a healthy diet and not smoking. These types of lifestyle choices may not be easy at first, but the benefits make it well worth the effort.
Your health care starts with you: schedule an appointment with your OB/GYN at least once a year, and understand any diagnosed conditions by asking questions. And take an active role too by making healthy lifestyle changes.
Let us know how All About Women in Gainesville can help you achieve or retain good health for a lifetime!