When you are over age 40 and you visit your gynecologist, you can expect your doctor to do an overview of your sexual and reproductive health. This is the time in your life when you might start to notice some symptoms and changes because of changes in your hormones. The average age of menopause is 51; however, there is a large bell curve that shows that many women reach menopause several years after that or several years before that, so it does vary. The drop in overall estrogen levels from decreased ovarian function can cause symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. There are treatments for these symptoms.
Your doctor may discuss hormone replacement with you, if applicable. You will also be screened for hereditary breast, ovarian and colon cancers. A breast and pelvic exam is still routine in an annual gynecological exam, with a Pap smear every five years if your human papillomavirus (HPV) test was negative.
Starting at age 40, your doctor will give you a referral for a yearly mammogram. At age 50, you'll get a referral for a colonoscopy. If you have risk factors, such a family history of breast or colon cancer, you may be referred earlier.
More Answers from Angela Valle, MD