Should I go to the gynecologist if I'm a virgin?
December 19, 2004 6:09 PM   Subscribe

Should I go to the gynecologist if I'm a virgin?[MI]

I'm 29, have never been to see one, haven't had genital contact with anyone, do not need birth control, and nothing's irregular down there except maybe the occasional period (and not so much this year). So I tend to think no, especially because the membrane in question is still mostly intact and I don't want the first penetration to be by speculum/doctor, or to ever happen. But maybe that latter concern, and my general feeling that the doctor's going to consider me a freak unlike anyone else, is coloring my perception of whether or not I need to go. So, is that a silly reason not to go? I'm pretty sure that the standard medical professional's response would be that I'm long overdue for a such a visit, but what would you do in my situation? Do I really need a pap smear given my background? Is this going to hurt? I posted this at a virgin forum but only got one response from a pro-abstinence guy whose comments didn't have much bearing on my concerns.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (43 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Rule of thumb seems to be to start visits at age eighteen regardless of sexual activity, earlier if sexual activity begins earlier. They have smaller speculums (I just know that's wrong, but I can't pluralize it correctly) for virgins and you can inform them of the situation when you arrive for your appt. It shouldn't hurt if the doctor is careful, though it might be uncomfortable.

Also, a gynecologist will do a breast exam, make sure you know how to perform a breast exam, and just generally keep an eye on your health. And the doctor certainly will not consider you a freak - you are probably not the first 29 year old virgin they've treated, y'know?

So yes, you need to go see a gynecologist, and should see one every year at minimum. Your sex life doesn't play into it a whole lot.
posted by annathea at 6:20 PM on December 19, 2004

Yes, you should go, if for no other reason than to get a baseline for future checkups, and to get your breasts checked as well.

I went for the first time before I lost my virginity. You'll find that the hymen doesn't completely obstruct your vaginal canal, otherwise you wouldn't have a period. I'm sure that your doctor can work around it.

Your doctor won't consider you a freak. The doctor sees stuff EVERY DAY. I doubt she will think twice about it.

The pap smear does hurt a bit, as it is a scrape against your cervix, but nothing outlandish. It feels to me like a bad cramp all of a sudden, but it literally only takes a second. The anticipation is worse than the actuality.

Do you have a trusted female friend that can go in with you and hold your hand? That might help.

Please, take care of your body. If you are interested in more reading, you can always get a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves. I also like Taking Charge of Your Fertility, which taught me loads about my body and my cycles. It was lots of fun being able to tell when I was ovulating.

Good luck! Feel free to email me (it's in the profile) if you want to talk.
posted by sugarfish at 6:20 PM on December 19, 2004

women see gynecologists for reasons besides sexual health--uterine and ovarian cancer, for example, are very hard to detect and often have few symptoms until it's too late. your sexual activity (or conscious lack of it) isn't the only factor in deciding whether a visit is a good idea.

So I tend to think no, especially because the membrane in question is still mostly intact and I don't want the first penetration to be by speculum/doctor, or to ever happen.

? are you saying that you hope that, as long as you don't see an obvious reason to go (a symptom for example), you never have to deal with a gyno? obviously you can live however you wish to, but i must say i find that a rather radical approach to your health, especially if you don't have any hangups about seeing other types of doctors. this is probably going to get me criticism from mefites for making judgments of you, anon, but why is the intact-hymen sort of virginity so important to you, perhaps even so important it trumps making sure you're healthy (cancer or polyp free, etc)? i can't begin to assume, but perhaps you should review for yourself the reasons it's so important and figure out why it's more important than getting yourself checked out. (and believe, i'm not much of a fan of gyno visits myself...but every once in a while...)
posted by ifjuly at 6:21 PM on December 19, 2004

Pardon the anthropomorphization, but cancer won't give a damn if you're a virgin or not. Get yourself in to see an OB-GYN and get yourself a pap smear. A good provider will also do a breast exam; even if you're already checking for lumps it's good to get checked by a pro. This is a basic health need and nothing to joke about. Women get these exams regularly because early identification can literally make the difference between life and death.

Pick a woman practitioner, if that will make you more comfortable in telling said professional everything you've told us and more. And believe me, he/she will not be wasting their valuable time thinking about what a freak you are; if anything, you'll be a much less worrisome patient than those with the extraordinarily ...ah... entertaining personal histories.

Schedule an appointment. Now.
posted by clever sheep at 6:23 PM on December 19, 2004

I don't think that being a virgin is necessarily the same thing as having an inact hymen.

In regards to the pap, the actual test isn't very painful, but I imagine that as a sworn virgin the whole process could be very uncomfortable, emotionally and physically.

If this is a conscious choice you have made, I think that you should be able to find a doctor who respects that and can discuss your particular situation with you.

You should at least talk to someone about your particular health concerns. You can always decide later to pursue a physical exam, or not. Best wishes.
posted by Coffeemate at 6:24 PM on December 19, 2004

Any experienced gynecologist has seen a vast range of infections, genetic conditions, etc. belonging to people of a still-vaster range of physiques and sexual habits. He or she is not going to so much as bat an eyelash over an older virgin, let alone gawk or consider you a freak.
posted by ori at 6:27 PM on December 19, 2004

I'd also second the Our Bodies, Our Selves recommendation and encourage you to find a doctor you trust and are comfortable with. You could even set up a consultation to make sure you liked her/him before you proceed to an exam. S/he can also give you a sense of what to expect.

It's definitely worth having an exam to get a sense of your general health for internal organs you can't inspect visually, in much the same way that your general practicioner evaluates your lungs or palpates your stomach. And as people noted above, your breast health is also really important to manage.

I don't find pap smears painful, contrary to the poster above. Your experience may vary, but it's definitely worth having the experience.

As with all health issues, you should look for someone who will treat you without judgment, helping you make the best choices for yourself regardless of whatever the circumstances of your life and choices you've made. Especially when it comes to your sexuality.
posted by judith at 6:31 PM on December 19, 2004

Well said, judith.
posted by clever sheep at 6:38 PM on December 19, 2004

Yes you should go. Ask around and see if you can find an OB-GYN who has been recommended. If you're nervous sometimes it's good to go with a lady doctor althought I've been to both often and have found no major differences in manner or competence. If you're having irregular periods, it's a good idea to get checked out, even if you think you know what's causing them. I assure you, the doctor will not consider your virginity at all remarkable.

Pap smears are mostly to check for cervical cancer or pre-cancerous conditions, not things like VD, pregnancy or other things of concerns to sexually active women. The fact that you are a virgin doesn't matter. Also, the fact that you are a virgin may or may not mean that you have an intact hymen since you can lose it through tampon use, horseback riding or even masturbation. All the literary significance of the intact hymen and the blood on the sheet on the wedding night is just heavy metaphor. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't.

The OB-GYN visit is usually short, will involve a bunch of questions about your sex life and your menstrual cycles and an internal exam involving a speculum while you have your feet in stirrups. Often you can keep your shirt/top on and just remove your pants and put a cloth over your lap. Doctors usually use lube, warm the speculum, and are generally very very considerate, especially if you tell them you haven't been before. The whole thing mostly doesn't hurt, and will be less uncomfortable the more relaxed you are. The actual pap smear involves scraping off some cervical cells with a sort of tongue depressor thing, it sometimes feels like a little pinch and then it's over; sugarfish is right, it's like one cramp. The doc will usually put his/her fingers inside you and then push down with the other hand outside of you to feel your ovaries/uterus once the speculum has been removed. This definitely feels weird but it's quick and clinical. Breast exams are the same as the ones you'd do yourself at home [you are examining your breasts monthly, right?]. Then you get dressed, they say they'll send you your results, and then you leave.

If you're nervous, it's totally appropriate to bring a friend with you to the exam. I'd also strongly second [third?] reading Our Bodies Our Selves which is a great womens' health book in addition to being pretty empowering as well as readable. Feel free to ask your doc a lot of questions during the appointment and remember, if you're not comfortable, you can tell them to stop at any time and just walk out of there and find a doctor you do like.
posted by jessamyn at 6:39 PM on December 19, 2004

I'll echo everyone above and tell you to go to the doctor. I've seen several different nurse practitioners for gynocological care, and I've been happy with all of them. A doctor isn't going to force you to have a pelvic exam exam against your will. If that's a deal-breaker for you, I'd bet if you explain your concerns and history, she would agree to just do an external genital examination. Your genitals are a part of your body, and just because you've chosen not to use them for sex doesn't mean they don't exist or don't require a physical check-up just like the rest of your body.
posted by bonheur at 6:44 PM on December 19, 2004

I happen to know a girl , who's the girlfriend of a friend of mine, who is a little older then you and in the very same situation.

Being raised in a not praticant, but very "religious catholic" family, she was led to believe the "touching" down there was not ok..that you shouldn't talk about "down there" ..the sense of dirtyness and stuff. Let alone visit a gynecologist, a man !!!! She was scared of the mere idea.

To give you an idea of the family scenario :

Her mother being totally subject to her dominating mother (grandmother of the girl) she never did recover from the "guilt" of leaving his man (who cheated on her) after marrying him ; the grandmother always said her not to EVER consider remarrying or finding another man as the marriage was sacred and besides she now had a kid (the girl).

Eventually the girl now 35 met my friend ( 2 years ago) who happens to be a staunch agnostic and who , probably, represents for her a mystical "prince charming" as he managed to

1. have her visit a gynecologist for the first time in 35 years !!!!
2. have her experience sex
3. basically led her out of the negative/oppresive place in which she spent the first 35 years of their life.

(Personally I admire him for his incredible dedication to this girl, he's basically fathering her into psycological sexual maturity..something very few man manage to do because, quite frankly, it is very hard to father a 35 year old women when you're 33. I don't believe in like Angels appearing and all..but definitely he's a mans man , doesn't believe in religion for a second, but kicks ass all around the clock)

Now she still feels uncomfortable about gynecologist visiting her, no matter if she's a female or a male..but she slowly but steadly understood there's NO guilt in taking care about your OWN health.

Now even there's no prince charming on the horizon :) that doesn't mean you can't help yourself while you search..regular visits are very important, today even men go visit andrologists (the equivalent of female gynecologist) to check if they have some problems with their genitals.

For woman it is much much much more important as female genitalia is more delicate then male genitalia and need more care and attention ; that's true for every woman, regardless of their religious faiths.

So let me tell you, set aside your fears my dear and visit a gyn as soon as possible...if you really have -fear- maybe you a female friend of yours (who already goes to gynecologist, that's important !) can come with you and tend to your fears. The most important thing is to get rid of fears, the rest will follow.
posted by elpapacito at 6:46 PM on December 19, 2004

I fourth or fifth the recommendation of Our Bodies, Our Selves and the Pap smear (although, be warned--I find it more uncomfortable than the other ladies in this thread do--it's not agonizing, but it hurts about as bad as a 200-lb. adult stepping on your toe).

You should have a Pap smear every year. And you need to have the irregular menstruation checked out. As for your wish to remain a virgin forever, I $ what everyone else said about it not being a matter of an imperforate hymen, but rather a choice not to have penetrative sexual contact.

Choosing a lifetime of virginity is a very challenging choice to make. I would encourage you to discuss this with a counselor or religious leader, just to be sure you are doing this as a positive choice, rather than as a reaction to a real or perceived fear. I do assure you that any good gynecologist will respect your feelings about your virginity, and about your hymen insofar as it doesn't have a negative impact on your health.

elpapacito, "andrologist" is used in English to mean "a urologist sub-specializing in male infertility." The English word for a doctor who deals with general issues of health regarding the male reproductive system is "urologist".
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:50 PM on December 19, 2004

(elpapacito, not a slam on your excellent English, just an odd linguistic hiccup that I thought would be of interest)
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:51 PM on December 19, 2004

sidhedevil: whoa really ? That's very curious because as far as I remember

1. andros = men in ancient greek (aner/andros if my memory serves...ack too many years without ancient greek)

2 while gyne (or close word) should be woman

So I tought if gyneco-logist, therefore andro(s)-logist. Uro-logist as far as I know (don't remember the hetimos) is t is a physician who has specialized knowledge and skill regarding problems of the male and female urinary tract.

Guess that, therefore, andrologist come in the picture only when there's a recognized (by an urologist ?) fertility problem ?

Indeed, this is an interesting hiccup.
posted by elpapacito at 7:04 PM on December 19, 2004

especially because the membrane in question is still mostly intact and I don't want the first penetration to be by speculum/doctor, or to ever happen.

why is the 'membrane in question' of any concern?
If it's deeply symbolic for you I'm sure your doc can work around it, but it still seems like an odd thing to get stuck on. For many women there is no hymen breaking moment - dunno if I never really had one or it was somehow broken non sexually at some point, but it's really got nothing to do with anything...

And as everyone has said, seeing a doctor is not just about sexuality and fertility. You are female and should see a doctor who has expertise in the female body. I think sidhedevil's advice about reflective confirmation of the motivations for your choice is also worth consideration.
posted by mdn at 7:06 PM on December 19, 2004

You should totally go. I was a thirty year old virgin and was also afraid I'd be looked at as a freak of nature, but it was ultimately fine. And I felt much better after going and getting a clean bill of health. They did a breast exam, a pap smear, and some general tests. Don't schedule the appointment for when you are having your period.

You are not a freak. There are lots of women out there like you. And lots of men, too. And use the opportunity to ask the gynecologyst about anything you might be curious about in matters of sexual health and hygiene. These people are professionals. They are there to serve you. Be strong and go. You'll feel better afterwards.
posted by Go, now. Go! at 7:20 PM on December 19, 2004

As said above, go see a gyno. I was a 21 year old virgin the first time. I found the Pap smear awkward, but it didn't really hurt. (As you can tell, everyone's experience is a little different). Even after that, I did bleed on my wedding night.

Anyway, please go. I know girls much younger than you (virgins even) who have had irregular Paps. Irregularities down there are nothing to mess with.

And remember, we're all born virgins. They've seen plenty of 'em, so don't worry about feeling like a freak. Just let them know you're uncomfortable and find a way to let your mind escape while it's going on.
posted by wallaby at 7:23 PM on December 19, 2004

What everyone said.

A big problem I see is the perseveration regarding the seeming interchangeability of "my annual" with "a pap". Getting the cervix sampled for abnormal cells is a small, albeit important part of the exam. If you aren't getting a good medical history, family history, a thorough breast exam, and as important now that melanoma is on the rise, a good, up-close check of your entire body (especially the genitals, where melanoma is notorious for arising), then get a doctor that does.
posted by docpops at 7:26 PM on December 19, 2004

especially because the membrane in question is still mostly intact and I don't want the first penetration to be by speculum/doctor, or to ever happen.

why is the 'membrane in question' of any concern?

This comes from the dusty nether regions of my brain but if memory serves me some men and/or religions place a high value on the Hymen being intact when a women gets married. To some it is "proof" that the woman is a virgin. Seem to recall a medical procedure that can be done on women to simulate a hyman for those purposes.

I echo the sentiments expressed above, not being sexually active shouldn't prevent you from getting a check up.
posted by squeak at 7:36 PM on December 19, 2004

elpapacito, I don't know why "andrologist" is reserved in English-language usage for male fertility specialists. It's a mystery to me.

My father's prostate operations, for example, were performed by a urologist, as was my husband's vasectomy.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:06 PM on December 19, 2004

or to ever happen

Actually, I think A. Nonny Mouse's wording indicates that the membrane in question is of concern to her in a way that goes beyond wanting a biblically/emotionally perfect wedding night, or a marriage at all. :)

Of course you should go, for all the reasons above. In a medical context, your sex-related anatomy is no different from your non-sex-related anatomy; if women were particularly prone to getting (and dying from!) fingernail cancer, there would be no question about getting your fingernails examined. And certainly in the ways in which this differs--preservation of the hymen and your comfort level--you have a right for your wishes to be respected.

Don't think for a second about seeming like a freak; you can tell your gynecologist as little or as much background information as you feel you need to and are comfortable with.

I second the recommendation to go to a consultation first and make sure you are comfortable with everyone in the practice. Decide what you are and are not comfortable with (comfortable, here, being a relative term) before you go.

I'd also recommend (if you're a person who feels more comfortable with writing than with speaking) writing down your thoughts/wishes on the subject, whether you give them to the doctor/NP or not, so they are crystallized, comfortable, and therefore easier to churn out on demand.

Good luck!
posted by littlegreenlights at 8:08 PM on December 19, 2004

Oh, yeah, and I don't do this any more, and I suppose you might run across a doctor who objected, but when I was a teenager I would bring my own blanket with me into the examination room so I didn't have to sit on the table barely covered in one of those dumb paper sheet things. :) It made the experience more comfortable in several ways. Semi-funny story: I went to an ancient, ancient woman whose nurse was even more ancient, and during the exam, the nurse would always rub my hand and tell me what a pretty ring I was wearing (I never wore a ring). :)
posted by littlegreenlights at 8:15 PM on December 19, 2004

Pap smears are mostly to check for cervical cancer or pre-cancerous conditions, not things like VD, pregnancy or other things of concerns to sexually active women.

Actually, cervical cancer IS a kind of STD, caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) which over 80% of sexually active women get. If you're a virgin with NO genital contact whatsoever (not limited to intercourse), I don't think there's actually any need for a pap smear. But you should still go get checked for ovarian cancer, breast cancer, etc.
posted by insideout at 8:19 PM on December 19, 2004

As above except for...

Pardon the anthropomorphization, but cancer won't give a damn if you're a virgin or not. Get yourself in to see an OB-GYN and get yourself a pap smear.

That's not true strictly speaking. The risk of cervical cancer( the most common gynecological cancer in your age-group generally) is directly related to your risk of contracting human papilloma virus, which does depend on your sexual history.
posted by drpynchon at 8:24 PM on December 19, 2004

I'll second wallaby's experience, as another woman who got her first pap smear before having sex, and also bled the first time she had sex. Also, yeah, if you haven't had sex, cervical cancer isn't a concern. You should probably still get the pap smear done though, just to become more familiar and comfortable with your body, to overcome a fear (as it's an unfamiliar and intimidating experience), and to make sure everything is alright "down there."
posted by heatherann at 8:39 PM on December 19, 2004

Nurse-midwives also do well-woman care, and in my experience it's in a much more relaxed and empathetic environment than going to an OB/GYN. I was going to midwives to get my annual checkups long before I got pregnant because they were personal, inclusive, thorough, and caring - instead of cold or clinical (not saying all gynos are like that, of course). Mine were unfreakoutable no matter what issues I had or what questions I asked. A 29 year old virgin is not so unusual. I wouldn't worry about that.

They will perform all the same tests you'd get at a doctor's office (and I find them to have a gentler touch). To me, Pap smears feel like a weird pinch up in there. It's not painless, but it's about on par with getting blood drawn, except it's over faster.
posted by Melinika at 9:05 PM on December 19, 2004

Actually, I think A. Nonny Mouse's wording indicates that the membrane in question is of concern to her in a way that goes beyond wanting a biblically/emotionally perfect wedding night, or a marriage at all. :)

I was actually responding to several posts who questioned why this matters. I wasn't daring to presume this may be A. Nonny Mouse's reason for it, was just an overall reply. If that is unacceptable form in the green I'd like to know so as to not repeat same mistake again. :)
posted by squeak at 9:18 PM on December 19, 2004

When I was at university a friend of mine had to go to see a ob/gyn after her first sexual experience led to vaginal tears. As you can imagine, the idea of anyone touching that area, after such a wonderful introduction to sex, pretty much freaked her right out. So the ob/gyn at the health clinic gave her a very mild sedative or muscle relaxant before the exam. She said it helped tremedously. I was just glad this replaced the idea of me going in with her (I would have, certainly, but I didn't relish the idea).

If you're really nervous, tell the doctor. The vaginal muscles can tighten if you're scared, and this will make the whole exam more uncomfortable and difficult for the doctor to get the sample needed from the pap smear. A good physician will be aware of this and work with you to make it as easy as possible.

I can tell you it's fast, and only a little uncomfortable. Mostly that's from the vunerability angle of it, I think. My doctor told me she uses different positions with different women in the exam, as the placement of the pelvic bone, and other features unique to everyone, make each exam a little different. I figure any doctor willing to work that out for her patients is worth the long drive I now take for my physical. If you can, get recommendations from friends.
posted by Salmonberry at 9:33 PM on December 19, 2004

Nuns go to the doctor, you know. So should you. A 29 year old virgin is not that unusual - I wouldn't give it a second thought, and I don't think I'm that unusual as a doc. (I've done hundreds of Pap smears - went to a hands on med school.)

Cervical cancer can affect women who have not had sexual intercourse, by the way. A Pap smear is a good idea.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:53 PM on December 19, 2004 [1 favorite]

Cervical cancer can affect women who have not had sexual intercourse, by the way. A Pap smear is a good idea.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:53 PM PST on December 19

99.7% of cervical cancers are related to HPV. Is it really worthwhile to screen women who have had no genital contact at all?
posted by insideout at 10:22 PM on December 19, 2004

Here's an idea: If money isn't an issue, I'm thinking it would be a great idea to schedule a first appointment just to talk - as a "conference" let's say, in which you can ask a lot of these questions and voice your concerns. I'd choose a recommended female gynecologist, and just ask everything you want to know (be straight with her, and definitely don't feel strange about this!), and ask her to explain what the examination should entail, and you can voice any fears or concerns you have.

This way, you know nothing scary or unexpected is going to happen on your first visit, and when you go back for the actual checkup, it will be to a setting and person you are already somewhat familiar with, and your doctor will already be familiar with you and understand what your issues are. This seems a vastly more comfortable approach to everything.
posted by taz at 11:27 PM on December 19, 2004

I second the idea of going in first for a consultation just to talk. For me since I am phobic of doctors, it makes a big difference to have a doctor I trust rather than one who makes me feel nervous.

I also second the idea of bringing a friend. I drag my boyfriend along but you could bring a female friend or relative. I find the whole process rather scary but having a hand to hold makes it doable.
posted by mai at 12:11 AM on December 20, 2004

99.7% of cervical cancers are related to HPV. Is it really worthwhile to screen women who have had no genital contact at all?

Yeah, but significantly more women who get cancer are not virgins, so the chance of HPV being involved is high. Just because only 0.3% of cervical cancers are not related to HPV doesn't mean that this 0.3% isn't made up of a very significant portion of virgins.. meaning the statistical chance of getting could be somewhat equal across the board.
posted by wackybrit at 12:36 AM on December 20, 2004

Many OB/GYNs will have an introductory period, a sort of meet and greet - fully clothed, before they start the actual appointment. If you are at all uncomfortable with them, you are free to leave and schedule another appointment/interview with another physician or nurse practitioner. Many family practice/general practitioner offices have people specializing in "women's health", they may be the easiest (least awkward) to meet with, if you are trying to stay within your HMO/PPO network.
posted by blackkar at 7:32 AM on December 20, 2004

More advice and description of a first visit at Scarleteen, which, while directed at teenagers, is a smart no-nonsense site that might help.
posted by occhiblu at 7:55 AM on December 20, 2004

A GYN exam doesn't only screen for cervical cancer (which can, in fact, be contracted by women who have never had sexual intercourse). The Pap smear is an inexpensive test and is worth doing at least once every few years, as cervical cancer is quite treatable when caught early.

In any case, the questioner has a history of irregular menstruation, which might be a sign of endometriosis or other even more serious problems; she needs to discuss this with a gynecologist ASAP.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:26 AM on December 20, 2004

My understanding is that cervical cancer is linked to a sexual risk factor, and that "true" virgins have a very low to nonexistant risk. See this article, for example. It only seems to make sense to do pap smears/hpv tests on women who report they are virgins if you assume that they are lying or they have a definition of "virginity" that includes sexual behavior which can transmit HPV.

Even if there is some small risk for non-HPV related cervical cancer, it's not true that more testing is always better. It can lead to false positives and overtreatment. In fact, overtreatment of pre-cancerous cervical lesions is a problem for women in general--many doctors are now counseling a wait-and-see approach rather than aggressive treatment that can cause miscarriages down the line.

Of course, there are other good reasons for a checkup besides cervical cancer.
posted by insideout at 11:04 AM on December 20, 2004

HPV is not the only cause of cervical cancer. Also, HPV is transmissible through common warts, as well as genital warts--someone who has never had any genital/genital or oral/genital contact could conceivably contract HPV through contact with an infected hand.

In any case, the questioner needs to see a gynecologist ASAP about her irregular menstruation. It is up to the gynecologist to decide whether she needs a Pap smear as well.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:17 AM on December 20, 2004

99.7% of cervical cancers are related to HPV. Is it really worthwhile to screen women who have had no genital contact at all?

Nah, not really. Let's just let certain women die at a young age, with crippling tumors fracturing their bones, invading their brains and spinal column, because the statistics said their preventable cancer was unlikely to have occurred. No biggie. In fact, when you tell such a woman that the chance of her developing this cancer was actually very low, she'll probably be totally fine with your decision not to screen her.

HPV is ubiquitous, rendering this kind of statistic suspect. Would you assert that because of the HPV number you quote, virgin women whose mothers were exposed to diethylstilbestrol should not be screened? What about women who have lots of cancer in their families?

What about women exposed to carcinogens that neither you nor she nor science are aware of? Or do you assert there are none? I would be glad to learn it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:43 PM on December 20, 2004 [1 favorite]

I could just about have written your post, if you subsitute "32" for "29". I went for my first pap smear last month & the woman I saw was very helpful & did not make me feel like a freak in any way. She explained everything she was doing & kept asking if I was comfortable or needed her to stop. It was so much *less* disturbing/uncomfortable/embarassing than I had expected.
posted by belladonna at 8:08 PM on December 20, 2004

And if you substitute "38" for "32" you'll have me going to my first gyno to have my first pap smear in January. I had my first ever pelvic exam just a few days ago (by my GP). While it was completely embarrassing it wasn't painful. This thread has made me less anxious about the pap smear. Thanks!
posted by deborah at 8:44 PM on December 20, 2004

You should have a Pap smear every year.

The AMA changed the guidelines on this. Women in a monogamous relationship (or not having any sexual relationship) are urged to get a pap smear every three years.

My two cents: Don't rule out male doctors. The very best, most gentle OB/GYN I've ever known was a man. He was thoughtful, intelligent and very up to date. The two worst OB/GYNs I've ever known were both women.

For most of my adult life, I have gone to the doctor once a year, my gynecologist, and gotten the whole check-up done in one visit.

I hope for the best for you: a clean bill of health and a new physician that you can depend on and build a good doctor-patient relationship with.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:50 PM on December 20, 2004

SLoG, I would recommend a female doctor for those who are especially freaked about this. I've been to both, and I absolutely prefer women, generally,
posted by taz at 9:38 AM on December 21, 2004

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