You might have heard that you don’t need a pap smear or annual pelvic
exam after age 65. But don’t cross your annual gynecologist visit
off your to-do list just yet.
“The media is giving women inaccurate information about their health,” says
Barbara Schulz, M.D., an Obstetrician/Gynecologist with the
Torrance Memorial Physician Network’s Women’s Center. “Just because you reach a milestone age doesn’t mean you’re
immune to certain illnesses, no matter what you read in the newspaper
or on the Internet.”
Dr. Schulz encourages mature women to pay just as close attention to their
gynecological health today, as they did in their childbearing years.
“Every woman needs an annual pelvic exam, especially if you’ve
had cervical dysplasia (pre-cancer) or a hysterectomy.” says Dr.
Schulz. “The pelvic exam includes a pap smear to check for
cervical cancer. We also look for skin cancers like melanoma that can occur in the vaginal
area. We often do a rectal exam to check for bleeding and check the ovaries
Women between the ages of 60 and 70 are at the highest risk for ovarian
cancer. Other common cancers include breast cancer and uterine cancer.
“Last year we had two women in their 80’s with uterine cancer.
They were told they didn’t need a pelvic exam anymore,” explains
Dr. Schulz. “It’s unfortunate because uterine cancer is one
of the most curable cancers that you can get when it’s caught early.”
One of the early warning signs of uterine cancer is bleeding or spotting.
“I don’t want any woman to think that bleeding or spotting
during menopause is normal or that it will just go away on it’s
own,” explains Dr. Schulz. “You need to talk to your gynecologist
In addition to catching cancers early, an annual pelvic exam can also help
you fight common symptoms of aging such as bladder trouble.
“Bladder symptoms like urgency and pain are often caused by vaginal
dryness,” explains Dr. Schulz. “We can prescribe localized
vaginal estrogen which has minimal absorption into the body. It’s
so safe that we offer it to people with a history of breast cancer. There
are also new non-estrogen medications in pill form that can return the
thickness and elasticity back to the vagina.”
Dr. Schulz is part of the Torrance Memorial Physician Network. You can
reach Dr. Schulz at the Women’s Center located at 510 N. Prospect
Ave., Suite 320, Redondo Beach, CA 90278 by calling 310-376-2716.