Taking the Best Care of You

Woman at doctor's office

When should I get my first Pap test?

Pap tests, or smears, look for changes in cells on your cervix that could turn into cancer if left untreated. The collection process is routine, and can quickly be done in a doctor’s office or clinic. You should schedule your first Pap test when you turn 21. If your results are normal, you can wait another three years for your next smear. Once you turn 30, along with your Pap test, you have the choice to add an HPV test every five years. This common sexually-transmitted virus usually clears up on its own, but if it doesn’t, it can cause cervical cancer. Talk with your provider if you have questions, concerns or to set up your first appointment.

How about my first mammogram?

Mammograms (low-dose X-rays) look for changes in breast tissue and find cancer early when it’s easiest to treat. A 3D mammogram finds 40 percent more cancers even before a lump can be felt. The American Cancer Society recommends women age 40 and up should schedule a yearly mammogram –definitely by age 45. Once you turn 55, you can switch your mammogram appointments to every other year. But remember, some women – due to family history, a genetic tendency, or certain other factors – have a higher risk for breast cancer. Talk with your health care provider for a screening plan that is right for you.

What should I do? It burns down there.

UTIs (also known as bladder infections) and candidiasis (yeast infections) are two of the most common problems women have down there. Because both infections can have similar symptoms, it’s best to let your provider sort it out the first time. A quick test will determine the correct medication and you will be feeling better in no time.

Signs of yeast infection – an overgrowth of the normal yeast in the vagina*

  • Vaginal irritation – pain, soreness, redness and/or rash
  • Burning sensation, especially during intercourse or while urinating
  • Vaginal discharge – “cottage cheese-like”

Signs of bladder infection – when bacteria enter and infect the urinary tract*

  • Pain or burning while urinating
  • Frequent urination
  • Feeling the need to urinate despite having an empty bladder
  • Low fever (less than 101°F)
  • Cloudy, bloody and/or strong-smelling urine
  • Pressure or cramping in the pelvic area or lower abdomen