The Importance of Annual Cancer Screening and What to Expect during the Exam

Uterine, cervical, ovarian and colorectal cancers are all common cancer concerns for women. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common female cancer in the world. Therefore, proper screening for cancers affecting the pelvic floor’s organs is a vital area of urogynecology. The Coyle Institute recommends annual pelvic exams paired with routine cancer screening for this reason. Find out more about cancer screenings at annual pelvic exams.

What Is Urogynecology?

Urogynecology is a specialized field that blends gynecology and urology, focusing on conditions and disorders related to the female pelvic floor. Urogynecologists diagnose and treat conditions like pelvic floor prolapse, pelvic pain and urinary incontinence. Dr. Michael Coyle is an expert in his field and the first in the nation to gain Board Certification as a Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgeon (FPMRS). His unique training and education in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, paired with his passion for women’s health, make him a highly sought-after urogynecologist.

What Happens during an Annual Pelvic Exam?

An annual pelvic exam is a thorough urogynecological consultation and evaluation that involves a collection of routine procedures. Each patient’s needs can be unique, which means specific tests and procedures may be unique to the patient. The annual exam may include: 

  • An evaluation of your current health status and concerns 
  • A check of your overall vitals 
  • A pelvic exam to evaluate the uterus, vulva, vagina, ovaries, cervix, rectum and pelvic floor 
  • A Pap test to collect cervical cells and screen for cervical cancer 
  • A general STD screening 
  • An evaluation of current contraception usage and needs 

While the Pap test is one of the most important elements of the annual pelvic exam, the overall exam is also essential for detecting cancer. Pap tests are capable of screening for cervical cancer, but signs of other types of cancer may be visually detectable. For example, some forms of colorectal cancer may be discernible during a visual exam because tumorous growth may be present. Likewise, changes in the skin or tissue around the vaginal canal may be indicative of cancer.

Call 850-637-8258 to schedule your annual pelvic exam. 

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An In-Depth Look into Cancer Screenings at Annual Pelvic Exams

Cancer screenings require various methodologies depending on the type of cancer. Additionally, the screenings can be good tools for catching cancer early enough to be treated.

The Pap test is used for the detection of cervical cancer. The doctor will insert a speculum into the vagina to open up the area and view the cervix. They then use a small brush to collect cells from the inside and surface of the cervix. These cells are sent to a lab for analysis for abnormal cells, which can indicate cervical cancer. 

Screening for colorectal cancer during an annual pelvic exam will involve a visual and digital examination of the lower rectum. The doctor may even use a thin lighted tube to look for polyps or cancerous growths in the lower rectum. While not as comprehensive as a colonoscopy, the brief exam can be efficient for catching early signs of potential cancer. 

While cancer screening at annual pelvic exams is effective for some types of cancer, there are limitations. For example, ovarian cancer cannot be detected through routine screenings. Therefore, individuals at high risk for ovarian cancer should discuss other detection methods like a transvaginal ultrasound or blood testing. 

The Role of Genetic Counseling in Cancer Screening

Genetic counseling can be valuable for understanding cancer risks as well. During a genetic counseling appointment, the professional will do an in-depth evaluation of a patient’s medical history, family cancer history and existing genetic conditions. They may also recommend further medical tests, such as specific blood tests. Genetic counseling provides a broad understanding of cancer risks and what an individual should be aware of in terms of those risks, such as how risks can be addressed or what kind of cancer screenings should be conducted moving forward.

Genetic Cancer Screening: A Deeper Dive

Genetic cancer screening takes genetic counseling a step further. The doctor will conduct a series of tests to look at specific chromosomes, genes and proteins and determine if there are notable mutations. These tests may provide clear estimates of how likely it will be that a patient will develop a certain type of cancer, such as breast, ovarian or colon cancer. Occasionally, patients are found to have specific gene mutations that drastically increase the likelihood of certain types of cancer. For example, a patient with an inherited mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene could have a higher risk of breast cancer. 

It is important to note that genetic testing does have limitations. Just because a patient is found to have a mutated gene or certain proteins or chromosomes does not always mean they will develop cancer. This is why Coyle Institute patients undergo thorough evaluations and continual monitoring instead of relying solely on these tests alone. 

Why Choose the Coyle Institute for Your Annual Pelvic Exam and Cancer Screening?

The Coyle Institute takes an advanced approach to urogynecology and cancer screenings. Dr. Coyle uses his expertise to ensure each patient gets an individualized evaluation based on their needs. In addition, Dr. Coyle and his team strive to maintain a high level of patient trust, which means open communication about risks and the limitations of different screenings. If you are due for your annual pelvic exam or cancer screening, schedule an appointment by calling 850-637-8258. 

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