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Women's Health Questions
By Obstetrics and Gynecology Expert
Marcus E. Tower, MD

Q. My mother is 86 years old and hasn't had a gyn exam in at least 5 years. She does not feel well a lot of the time, but other tests have not shown any real problem.

She has not had a hysterectomy and doesn't take any HRT. Should she have a gyn exam at her age to check for cancers, etc.? Thank you.

A. Your mother's age is a key part of the importance for any sureillance care. As we age, the risk for any cancer increases. Breast, vulvar, and colorectal cancers are all quite common at this age.

Some physician should perform routine screenings for your mother. A gynecologic exam may be performed by most primary care physicians as well as a gynecologist.

Q. I had a complete hysterectomy and have not had a pap test since. I didn't think there was anything to check.

Someone recently told me I still should. What would be the reason? What do you think?

A. A gynecological exam is much more than a pap smear. This exam evaluates the patient for vulvar, vaginal. and rectal cancers. A periodic pap smear may be of some value even in the absence of the cervix.

Many episodes of vaginal cancer may occur secondary to the human pappiloma virus.

All women should have close surveillance for breast cancer. This would include a detailed physical exam and a mammagram as appropriate.

Q. My OB/GYN retired and still has all my records. How can I get them?

A. Contact the hospital with which your OB/GYN was affiliated. The medical staff office or hospital administration may know where you records may be.

It may also be of value to contact any other physicians who may have worked with your OB/GYN. If it has been many years since your doctor has retired, it may be difficult to locate your chart.

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