DEAR MAYO CLINIC: My daughter is 13 and her pediatrician recently reminded us that she should get the HPV vaccine because it can prevent cervical cancer. This got me thinking about my daughter’s gynecological health. She started her menstrual cycle at age 12 but I’m not sure if there are any conditions and issues I should talk to my daughter about or when to take her to a gynecologist.
REPLY: Taking the time to discuss gynecological issues with your daughter is a wonderful step in educating her on how to maintain her health and well-being as she grows. I applaud you for being proactive.
As you may already know, most cervical cancers are linked to HPV, a sexually transmitted infection. Up to 80% of sexually active adults are exposed to the virus.
The immune system normally clears HPV itself. But occasionally the infection can persist and cause precancerous changes in the cervix.
Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006, the HPV vaccine can prevent cervical, vaginal, vulvar, penile, and anal cancers. In addition, the vaccine covers the HPV strains that cause genital warts.
Use of the vaccine has reduced cancer rates. The vaccine is most beneficial when given before the patient is exposed to the virus, so it is recommended that girls and boys between the ages of 9 and 14 be vaccinated.
Research shows that a healthy diet and exercise can reduce the risk of cancer later in life, as well as the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. Make sure they are active, spending time outdoors, and eating a varied diet with reasonable portion sizes. A daily multivitamin can also help.
Although your daughter is young, taking the time to teach her good habits is an important step to help her stay healthy as she grows. It’s also important to keep track of yearly visits to your pediatrician or GP.
It’s just as valuable for her to know that she can talk to you about any concerns or issues you may have. These include mood swings and sleep disturbances, which can be common at her age.
Be sure to talk to your daughter about menstruation, even if she’s already on her period. Also, remind her that until her cycle regulates – which can take many years – she may have breakthrough bleeding, but she shouldn’t panic.
Bloating or cramps may also occur, as is common in adolescents. But at her young age, that’s usually not a cause for concern.
If your daughter begins to develop any problems, such as B. painful or worsening cramps or markedly increased bleeding, further investigation may be necessary.
If no sexual activity is taking place, seeing your daughter at the pediatrician or family doctor during her annual health visits should be sufficient for a few more years. You may want to consider taking your daughter to a gynecologist when she is 15 or 16. The benefit is to provide educational information and guidance on reproductive health and reduce fear of the gynecologist.
The gynecologist will review menstrual history, puberty development, birth control options, and discuss safe sex. A pelvic exam is often not required on an initial visit unless there is a specific concern that needs to be addressed.
The screening guidelines are updated regularly. Whether you are taking your daughter to a gynecologist or other healthcare professional, it is valuable to discuss what tests can be done in a timely manner, such as: B. HPV testing and pap smear for cervical cancer.
When your daughter turns 21, she should have her first Pap test, which is an important screening test used to look for abnormal cells on the cervix. This test could indicate early-stage cervical cancer or precancerous cells. — dr Aakriti Carrubba
Obstetrics and Gynecology, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Florida
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