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Are you at risk?

by Salatha Helton, editor


Have you had a pelvic examination within the last year? Having an annual examination can reveal cervical abnormalities in time to prevent more serious complications such as cancer or sexually transmitted diseases.

A pelvic examination checks for sexually transmitted diseases such as, human papillomavirus (HPV), which leads to cervical cancer when abnormal cells develops. It can also detect diseases, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea. The most serious and common complication that result from untreated STDs is the Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), an infection of the upper genital tract. PID is an inflammatory infection found in female organs, including the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes.


Several factors contribute to pelvic inflammatory disease, but, the main cause is when bacteria travels from the vagina to the cervix, and goes into the woman’s reproductive organs. Symptoms of PID aren’t always visible and vary from person to person. A medical doctor usually must perform a complete physical, including a pap smear and cultures.

According to Danville Regional Health System, mild to severe symptoms include:

· Lower abdomen pain or tenderness

· Pain or tenderness during examination when the cervix is touched

· Unusual vaginal discharge

· Irregular menstrual bleeding

· Fever

· Nausea with or without vomiting

· Pain during intercourse

Annual examinations can help in the prevention of pelvic inflammatory disease; however, there is no specific test to determine if someone carries the trait. A physician can only diagnose based on a detailed health history, physical exam, blood tests, pelvic ultrasound, and sometimes through a swab test of the cervix. If a positive reading of sexually transmitted diseases or symptoms of PID occur, antibiotics can be prescribed, and at a least three follow-up visits should be scheduled (

Females who are sexually active, or women who are not sexually monogamous, should get exams more frequently.

Getting a checkup is important because each year more than one million women who experience symptoms go undiagnosed. More than 100,000 women in the United States become infertile because of reoccurring episodes of PID, and scarring of the fallopian tubes, which can result in blockage of the normal passage to allow eggs to enter into the uterus. This also leads to tubal pregnancy or chronic pelvic pain, according to The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.

The best way to prevent exposure to pelvic inflammatory disease and the risk of sexually transmitted diseases is to:

· Always use latex condoms for all types of sexual activity.

· Use back-up methods such as diaphragms or spermicidal contraceptives in combination of latex condoms.

· Limit sexual partners. (Multiple partners increase the risk of STDs).

· Have annual checkups if sexually active or 18 years of age and older.

· Get tested and have partners tested before having sexual intercourse.

Preparing for an annual exam can be intimidating, but it can alleviate longterm health complications. Do not schedule the exam while menstruating and use a condom if having intercourse 24 hours before exam. Before going to the physcian, write down any questions, and be honest.

Having an annual exam is important. It shouldn’t be taken lightly. Avoiding the doctor out of fear can result in lifelong health complications or even death. It’s your health; don’t forget to get an annual examination.



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