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Just two generations ago, cervical cancer was a leading cause of death among women. Thanks to an increase in regular pap tests, deaths from cervical cancer have declined significantly.

Pap tests, originally called "pap smears," have evolved to be capable of detecting minor changes to cervical cells well before cancer develops. This advancement has led some health organizations to suggest a yearly pap test may not be necessary depending on a woman's age and personal medical history. This recommendation has contributed to a rise in women skipping their annual gynecologic visit altogether. Experts agree, that’s a big mistake.

"There are many health benefits to visiting your gynecologist every year," says Dr. Kimberly Fallon, a Holy Name OB/GYN. "We build relationships with our patients, detect other health issues and provide recommendations for important screenings."

In addition to the pap test, an OB/GYN will conduct clinical breast and pelvic exams, which includes an assessment of uterus and ovary health. During this appointment, your physician can also screen for sexually transmitted infections, provide referrals for life-saving mammograms, order bone density tests to prevent and diagnose osteoporosis and schedule colonoscopies to prevent and diagnose colon cancer.

A trusted OB/GYN is a great resource for information about sexual, menstrual and reproductive health issues. Postmenopausal women in particular have unique needs that should be addressed directly with a physician.

"These annual visits promote overall good health," said Dr. Fallon. "Women should find a gynecologist who prioritizes the type of personalized care delivered at Holy Name—care based not just on age and medical history, but also the individual needs that make you… you."