From puberty to childbirth to menopause, women’s bodies endure a lot. Add the intricacies of the female reproductive system on top of all the general health conditions both men and women experience and you have a complicated vessel that requires specialized care.
Enter the OB GYN. Yes, that’s right. Men and women are so anatomically different that a special kind of doctor exists specifically for women and their healthcare needs. Because of the many unique differences between men and women’s health, Dr. Nicholas Hallak of Hallak Medical Group in Aberdeen says it’s important for women to start seeing their OB GYN early to help maintain a healthy lifestyle and prevent disease later on in life.
When Should You Start Seeing Your OB GYN?
Dr. Hallak recommends women start seeing a primary care physician or OB GYN between the ages of 13 and 15. Why so young? Dr. Hallak says, even for young women who aren’t sexually active, it’s important for women to have access to information and resources before they need them.
In order to prevent STDs and unwanted pregnancies, Dr. Hallak says it’s key to start seeing and feeling comfortable with your OB GYN early. And, just like information and education are a form of preventative care, so are vaccinations. Dr. Hallak recommends that women get vaccinated for HPV early, before they are sexually active. Today, some 80 percent of women in the United States have one of the 120 strands of HPV. While many symptoms of HPV can lay dormant for years, getting vaccinated can help prevent cervical cancer and other symptoms caused by the disease.
Dr. Hallak says getting young women in to see their OB GYN helps alleviate the fear and stress associated with visiting the doctor. “During their first visit, we can just sit down and talk, provide information, make sure their vaccinations are up to date, and establish a relationship,” says Dr. Hallak. “Then, the next year we can look at doing an external pelvic exam. It’s a slow process, especially with young people.”
Preventative Care for Aging Women
Through a young woman’s teen years, Dr. Hallak says it’s important to continue seeing your primary care physician or OB GYN for routine, annual exams. However, starting at age 21, there are some important exams women will want to make note of and go in for in order to prevent disease.
At age 21, Dr. Hallak recommends all women get their first Pap smear. Dr. Hallak says many women think they’ve already had a Pap smear, but what they probably had was a pelvic exam. These are two different procedures. Dr. Hallak says Pap smears are important because they test for cervical cancer, and, as we all know, early detection is key.
By age 40, low risk women should be screened for breast cancer. Dr. Hallak says women who are at low risk are women who don’t have a family history of breast cancer. If you have a mother, sister or other relative who has had breast cancer, your susceptibility to the disease is higher and you should get screened early.
Between ages 45 and 50, Dr. Hallak says women should start looking at their cholesterol levels and be screened for diabetes, thyroid disease, and — the big one — colon cancer.
While this may seem like a lot, don’t feel overwhelmed. “There’s a reason why these rules were made and these age groups were picked,” explains Dr. Hallak. “These are the best times to get these procedures done to prevent future problems.”
Supportive, Local Care
Pile all of this on top of pregnancy, menopause, osteoporosis and the many other women-specific life events and conditions that come with the role and it can be a lot to bear. Luckily, Grays Harbor is filled with caring, compassionate professionals who can help walk you through the process.
Dr. Hallak says listening to and supporting his patients is his first priority. “What patients should know is, first and foremost, the physician is going to do whatever is in your best interest,” explains Dr. Hallak. “Second, we’re going to respect your autonomy. And third, our physicians will never do you harm. All our patients are treated equally.”
Are you past due for your check-up or want to bring your teenage daughter in for her first exam? Find a trusted provider through Hallak Medical Group or Grays Harbor Community Hospital and get your health where you want it to be.