Although most women are familiar with their gynecologist through their annual checkup, OBGYN physicians have a lot more to say about women's health than just the results of a pap screening. Dr. Kimberly Arthur shares with us a few important factors to consider in women's health.
Smoking obviously affects people’s health. Whether it’s a few cigarettes a week socially or half a pack a day how important is it that your patients share their smoking habits with you?
Very important. Smoking suppresses the immune system so it can potentially effect or accelerate existing health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, cervical cancer, etc.
Communication is so important between doctor and patient. What information do you wish your patients would overshare with you as opposed to under share?
If there is any change in sexual partners or past history of sexually transmitted infections. Also any kind of drug abuse: overusing medication, pain pills, recreational drugs or excessive drinking.
You have been in practice for over 25 years in Northwest Indiana. In the last five years have you seen any concerning trends growing among your patients?
Being in practice for so long, I have seen my patients age and I think the biggest problem is obesity. Obesity coexisting with the sedentary lifestyle creates problems such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. Then other problems can coexist with that: arthritis, respiratory problems, etc.
If a patient is in a dangerous or threatening relationship, is it true OBGYN doctors have been trained to deal with these issues and have resources on-hand?
Yes, we have sources in the hospital setting that we can utilize. Years ago I had a very bad situation involving a young girl and within two hours we were able to get the right people involved and get the situation managed.
From your perspective what is the number one silent killer for women?
We are seeing women with a variety of medical problems and I would say heart disease is number one. It used to be women over 50 were at risk but now it's happening sooner, around the age 45. If the woman doesn't know she has hypertension and she is not being treated for it, it can increase her risk for heart disease and/or heart attack.
Can you clarify how the screening guidelines changed?
In the past, we would say a young girl should get her first papscreening at age 18. Now screenings should begin at age 21 unless the patient has been sexually active for three years, then the pap screening should begin after that third year. If a conventional pap screening is performed and comes back normal, or negative, then a papscreening can be done every two years between the ages of 21 and 30.
Beginning at age 30, the pap screening includes HPV testing. If the patient has three consecutive normal pap/HPV screenings, then the patient can be screened every three years. Between the ages of 65 and 70 patients may stop pap screenings. Some patients may still want the screening and that's fine.
What advice do you hear yourself repeating most often to your patients?
I tell them about diet and exercise. We have to discuss it and have an open conversation about it because it's a battle. I think it's the two biggest things that can help just about anything. We can focus on staying as fit as possible, not only physically but mentally. Have our minds alert and watch what we do.
Dr. Kimberly Arthur MD
Obstetrics & Gynecology, Board Certified
Hessville Family Care Center
3432 169th St
Hammond, IN 46323