Health Self-Exam for Women When You Go to the Gynecologist

Some tips and advice about how to prepare before going to a gynecologist or doctor's office.

WHEN YOU GO TO THE GYNECOLOGIST

1. Prepare a list of problems and questions in advance.

2. You may bring a friend, sometimes called a "patient advocate," in case you are flustered or intimidated by the doctor. She can speak for you, or remind you of questions you wish to ask.

3. Insist on a Pap test every 6 months. For this test, cells are gently scraped from the cervix with a wooden spatula and are sent to a laboratory for examination. The results are available in about a week. The cells are graded Class I, Class II, and so on, from normal cells up to a category for cancerous cells. Cervical cancer is 100% curable if found early. The test is painless. It should not be performed if you have a vaginal infection, since the infection may cause the cervical cells to appear abnormal.

4. Have a gonorrhea test every 6 months if there is any possibility you may have been exposed to it. A sample of discharge from around the cervix is taken to the laboratory for culture. This test is very important, since gonorrhea in women is usually without symptoms.

5. You can ask to watch the examination in a mirror, and you can ask questions about what you see.

6. If you don't understand the diagnosis, ask for an explanation.

7. If you are given medication, ask for the name of the drug and for a list of side effects.

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