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Importance of Vaccinations and Screenings

Once you've finished your childhood vaccination series, there's a few vaccines that are recommended for all adults, including an annual flu vaccine. For women of childbearing age, we recommend a TDaP or tetanus booster during pregnancies. And then the shingles vaccine is recommended for everyone over the age of 50. A TDaP vaccine is recommended during every pregnancy, and the reason being not for the T or tetanus but more importantly the P or pertussis, which is whooping cough. Whooping cough for an adult is like a really long cold but for babies can be fatal because their airways are so small. And unfortunately, immunity to pertussis is not very good and so by getting vaccinated with every pregnancy you boost that immunity both for mom to prevent her from spreading it to her baby, but also it boosts that immunity that crosses the placenta to help protect her little one.
  • November 27, 2020
  • By Katy Johnson, OB/Gyn

The HPV vaccine is ideally done for adolescent girls, preferably under the age of 15 to complete their
series because then it only needs to be two shots, but it can be done as a three-shot series for older girls and young women. It is approved for up to age 49 but ideally, it's done when you're younger, before potential exposure to HPV. 

Screenings are divided into cancer and non-cancer screenings. For all adults when you come for your annual wellness checkup, you'll get your blood pressure checked which is a blood pressure screening. Depending on your age and your risk factors, we'll also do diabetes screening and cholesterol screening. Cancer screenings start with pap smears at age 21. After that, the frequency is usually every three years until you hit the age of 30 and then if they're still normal at that point, the screenings can be spaced out if we combine it with an HPV test to every five years. That continues until a woman is age 65 but sometimes, we need to go longer if is a history of an abnormal pap smear or any treatments of the cervix 

Other cancer screenings that are recommended for women, include breast cancer screening that usually starts with a discussion with your doctor around the age of 40. There is also colon cancer screening, which can start at age 45 or age 50, depending partly on your family history and other risk factors as well

Bone density screening is recommended to start usually at age 65, but it may be recommended for a woman earlier depending on her risk factors or family history screenings. 

Screening allow us to find disease early on before it becomes a bigger problem. An example is cervical cancer. Cervical cancer in and of itself is actually usually slow growing and if you get your pap smears regularly, the chances of getting cervical cancer are very rare. If you start having abnormal pap smears, your doctor can offer interventions that can keep it from progressing onto cervical cancer. 

With colonoscopies the idea is to prevent not just colon cancer, but if you do develop it to detect it at an early stage where intervention can make a difference. A good time to talk to your doctor about vaccinations and screenings is at your annual wellness checkups. I usually recommend starting them before you think you need them so that you can make a plan and discuss both your personal preferences and beliefs and also what the guidelines suggest that you can make a plan that works for you.