Author Archives: Nikkeya Boyd, NP

About Nikkeya Boyd, NP

Nurse Practitioner Fulfilling her dream of becoming a nurse practitioner Nikkeya Boyd joined Arizona Gynecology Consultants in 2019. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Missouri in St. Louis and her graduate work at Grand Canyon University graduating in 2018. Read More About Nikkeya Boyd

What menstrual products are right for you?

Exploring Alternative Menstrual Products: What’s Right for You?

This entry was posted in Health FAQs and tagged , on by .

It’s no secret that periods can be inconvenient. Plus, beyond the typical period and its symptoms, accompanying painful health conditions can impact your life more than just one week out of the month. Not to mention, you’ll also need to fork out cash on a consistent basis just to address the bleeding aspect of menstruation – and many of the standard options aren’t all that good for your body.

If you’re a person with a period facing yet another of the nearly 500 periods you’ll likely have in your life, you know just how imperfect the standard options can be. But, did you know that tampons and pads are far from the only period solution available? Deviating from typical period products to an alternative that works for you may have positive results on your life, your health, and your wallet.

Exploring Menstrual Products: the Basics

Exploring Menstrual Product Basics

Of course, most of us think of pads or tampons when it comes to containing menstrual bleeding. These have improved over the years, and there are now multiple different options as far as size, absorbency level, and even some that use minimal packaging materials or biodegradable products. However, as prevalent and common as these goods are, they are not without their potential harms and downsides.

Disposable Sanitary Pads

Pads, also called sanitary napkins, are disposable and absorbent protective pads that you can easily stick to your underwear with an adhesive backing. They’re available in a variety of lengths and absorbencies and are meant to be changed every couple of hours. Some even come with wings or other features meant to help them stay in place (a marked improvement from the original belt and pad combo women used before the invention of the adhesive backing).

However, many pads have fragrances or other chemicals that can irritate your skin or affect your pH levels. They can also shift over time, and have a tendency to be bulky under clothing and for athletic activity. Disposable pads also aren’t an option when swimming. Disposable menstrual napkins also contain plastics and bleached fibers, and often use excessive packaging that is not eco-friendly.


Tampons are dense, cylindrical units of material, usually made of either cotton, rayon, or a mixture like that used in pads. They are inserted into the vaginal canal and absorb blood internally until their replacement every few hours. They’re available in a variety of absorbencies and are discreet, compact, and convenient for swimming, exercising, and sports.

However, they are sometimes uncomfortable and may be drying or irritating to the vagina. Also, like pads, they are also a large contributor to landfills across the country, and while some environmentally conscious options exist (e.g., organic materials, plastic-free applicators), tampons still pile up in the ecosystem and take a very long time to degrade. Some materials are far from natural, including bleached cotton and rayon.

Most notably, tampons carry the risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS) if left in place too long. While this is a rare condition, it is extremely dangerous and can be life-threatening. To avoid your chances of suffering TSS, avoid high absorbency tampons and do not wear them for extended durations, including when going to bed.

The Ecological and Biological Harm of Traditional, Single-Use Menstrual Products

Menstruating individuals, who have little choice in this bodily process, will spend close to $13,000 on products for their period on average during their lifetime. This is not a negligible expense by any means. Worse, the constant need to throw away and replace means menstruating individuals are consigned to this expense for decades on end.

The harm isn’t just financial. On average, each person throws out more than 10,000 single-use products over the course of their life, adding to the yearly total of 200,000+ tons of plastic waste from these products. The majority of traditional period products include plastic and are not biodegradable. These disposable goods are estimated to take around 500 to 800 years to fully decompose.

In addition, the menstrual hygiene products that are the most readily available to the public, such as tampons and pads, frequently contain harmful residual chemicals and other agents. These include bleach from whitening the material, dyes, leftover pesticides and toxic metals from cotton cultivation, phthalates to strengthen plastic, odor-neutralizers, and fragrance.

The chemicals included in these products can be damaging to water sources and take centuries to break down. So, imagine the risk they pose when inserted during menstruation by the 50-86 percent of women in the US who report using tampons. These chemicals are potentially irritating and chemically impactful during direct contact with pads, and the vagina’s permeability can allow harmful agents to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream during tampon use.

Alternative Menstrual Products to Tampons and Pads

Alternative Menstrual Products

Certainly, the traditional period product options are readily available, easy to purchase, straightforward to use, and have an extensive presence in our culture. However, as we know, these limited options aren’t always the best for the environment or our bodies. That’s why it’s worth learning about sustainable menstruation and alternative period products.

Sustainable menstruation entails consideration of the adverse effects disposable products – even those with better or more biodegradable materials – can have in contributing to landfills and oceans. While it’s not always convenient or a viable option to venture into alternative, sustainable products for menstruation, if one of these items can work for you, you may save money and improve your health in the long run. You’ll also help stem the flow of disposable products into our landfills.

Consider these sustainable, safe options.

Reusable Cloth Pads

This alternative period product is very similar to disposable pads in shape and size but entirely composed of absorbent fabric that can be washed with the rest of your laundry. Cloth sanitary napkins also tend to absorb more blood than their disposable counterpart. Like disposable pads, they are designed to be changed every few hours but stay firmly in place with a buttoning mechanism for the time in between.

This sustainable menstrual product is ideal for those who don’t wish to insert period protection, as well as for those who want a failsafe backup for their insertable products. Despite a higher price tag upfront than the average box of disposable pads, this option also saves you on monthly expenses since the cloth is durable and washable. Their reusable quality also prevents more unnecessary packaging and pads that aren’t kind to the earth. You can find reusable cloth pads in numerous styles and a range of absorbency levels and sizes. These reusable pads also tend to be more breathable, flexible, and less likely to feel bulky or feel lumpy under clothing.

However, like traditional pads, reusable pads may not be ideal for athletes or days at the beach. Cloth sanitary napkins are vulnerable to stains if washing is delayed and may be messy to change and hold onto while outside the house (though this is easily solved with a small, waterproof bag). They can also be a bit of an investment before saving on long-term costs, and some available designs (e.g., two interlocking parts, tying) can be tricky or inconvenient for some individuals.

Menstrual Cups and Discs

Menstrual cups have become increasingly popular in recent years, largely due to their potential to be in place for much longer than traditional period products. Some are capable of safe wear without being emptied for up to 6-12 hours (depending on individual flow). These silicone or rubber cups are flexible and meant to be folded and inserted, similar to a tampon. Within the vaginal canal, this cup creates a firm seal to collect blood, almost completely eliminating leakage before it’s time for removal. To remove, you’ll simply tug gently and pour the contents into the toilet, then thoroughly rinse the cup so it’s ready to be used again right away. Keep in mind that not all period cups are multi-use, so make sure to choose one that fits your preference before purchasing.

This method offers a sustainable and straightforward product that’s reusable, saves on monthly purchases, is small and discreet, and requires no multiples to switch out. Menstrual cups are ideal for those looking for an alternative period product that doesn’t take up space in their underwear or bunch up their clothing, people who are active and want to move freely without feeling a period product, and those who want to have sex on their period without the blood. Period cups also don’t impact your natural pH like tampons, cause a noticeable lingering blood smell like pads, or dry you out on lighter flow days.

There are a few drawbacks, depending on your preferences. Application and removal can be messy and difficult for some, and those with heavy flows may find the cup isn’t enough to avoid leakage. In addition, the investment is cost-effective over time, but the initial purchase may be pricey for some. There is a slight chance for TSS if cups are not used per instructions, but most agree that it is even lower than that posed by tampons. Menstrual cups may not be a good fit for individuals with fibroids, vaginismus, an IUD that is susceptible to dislodgement, or a latex allergy, as some cups contain this ingredient (always read the label if you have an allergy).

Period discs are a similar concept as the cup, except the disc shape sits above the cervix instead of below as a cup does. Discs also allow for up to 12 hours of protection and mess-free sex. This product method mainly comes in disposable form, so it requires repurchasing, but reusable options are beginning to hit the market.

Absorbent/Padded Underwear

Menstrual underwear, or period panties, are another great option for people who don’t like insertable menstrual products but also don’t want the added fuss of putting a pad on and replacing it after a few hours. This option looks and feels just like regular underwear but is made of materials specifically manufactured to soak up blood with no leak-throughs.

This option is sustainable because of its reusable quality that doesn’t require repurchase/replacement for years. You can change menstrual underwear as you feel comfortable – just wash them along with your other underwear, and they’ll be ready to use again once they’re clean. There are several inexpensive styles and designs available on the market, although those with added functions or higher absorbencies tend to increase in price compared to regular underwear. Regardless of the type, you’ll experience great absorbency that feels dry on the skin without the bulk or shifting of a pad.

The cons of period underwear are relatively few. They may not be a reliable option for people with heavy flows, and the various styles (and sizes) available across brands may mean a bit of trial and error period before you find the one that works best for you. Even if you find your favorite right away, they are an investment. You’ll also need to bring along a small wet bag if you anticipate the need to freshen up while on the go.

Sponge Tampons

Sea sponges can be inserted to absorb blood flow in a similar fashion to traditional tampons. If this sounds like an alternative menstrual product you’d like to try, it’s advantageous to make sure it is a natural sea sponge. Using a synthetic or dyed sponge can be even more risky and dangerous to your health than a traditional tampon.

Quality, natural sponges are reusable, with some lasting up to six months if properly used and regularly cleaned. Natural sponges are also less likely to have adverse effects like irritation compared to traditional tampons or pads that contain chemical additives. Sponge inserts are also less expensive than some other reusable alternative period products can be.

They aren’t without their caveats, though. Sponge material isn’t sterile, still carries the risk of TSS, and can be vulnerable to rips and tears during removal. Removal can also be messy since you don’t pull a string but instead use your fingers. They also need to be wetted before being inserted and require rinsing every three hours. Properly caring for natural sponge tampons involves washing them thoroughly and letting them dry completely before returning them to storage after your period has ended.

Free Bleeding

Free bleeding is self-explanatory. It involves going about life during your period with no protective barriers or measures to prevent blood from flowing. It’s not for everyone and can be cause for public concern if you are free bleeding while out and about.

If you’re in a position to free bleed and it’s what works for you — don’t hesitate to give it a try. Keep in mind that dried blood has the potential to be infectious, so minimal maintenance and attentiveness are still needed for your health and safety. Additionally, any surfaces that end up bloodied will require adequate disinfection to avoid the chance of transmitting any viruses. Potential downsides are stained clothing and other fabrics such as furniture or bed sheets; immediate treatment with cold water can help lessen the severity of staining.

Why Your Gynecological Health Is Important

Your gynecological health is important

Just like it’s crucial to take care of your body as a whole, it’s equally crucial to remain informed about your reproductive health. Gynecologists are specifically educated in all parts of the female reproductive system, including its needs, its potential issues, and how to prevent them. This focus and attention, coupled with comprehensive gynecological care, can catch serious problems early, notice symptoms and fluctuations your general doctor might not, and potentially explain issues you weren’t even aware were related to your reproductive system.

At Arizona Gynecological Consultants, our team cares about the person behind the patient. Our qualified team of professionals aims to treat you holistically and adjust your specialized treatment as your needs evolve. We’re here to listen and answer any questions you may have. Get in contact with us to schedule regular gynecology appointments and stay on top of your health.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Low Estrogen

Diagnosis and Treatment of Low Estrogen

This entry was posted in Health FAQs and tagged on by .

As women age, it is normal to have low estrogen levels.  So, what does this mean for you and your body? Is it possible for your estrogen levels to become too low? How is low estrogen diagnosed and treated?

How Estrogen Affects the Body

Estrogen is a group of steroid hormones created by the body to serve various purposes. As a sex hormone, estrogen is inextricably linked to female sexual development, reproductive health, and secondary sex characteristics like menstrual cycles, breast development, and more.

However, these and all hormones interact with more systems of the body than most people think. This means that low estrogen symptoms can involve some things that you wouldn’t normally consider.

Estrogen enters all cells in the body, though not all cells are responsive to its effects. However, that means estrogen has a number of functions.

Sexual Development and Health

The most well-known effects of estrogen are linked to sexual development and health. In youth, estrogen stimulates the growth of the uterus and the development of the breasts, buttocks, and legs. As women enter the reproductive years, estrogen helps thicken the uterine lining (endometrium) necessary to nourish a child and regulates the menstrual cycle that helps shed the additional tissue each month. It also stimulates vaginal lubrication and increases libido.

Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Estrogen can be an important immune hormone. Primarily, it helps to regulate the intricate interplay of the inflammatory response. When infection and other stresses occur, inflammation is an important part of the immune response; however, sustained inflammation can be harmful to the body. Estrogen can have both anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory effects to regulate this process.

Brain Function and Mental Health

Estrogen has a generally positive effect on mood regulation and mental health, as it appears to boost both serotonin and the brain receptors that interact with serotonin. This modulation of mood chemicals (known as endorphins) can improve mood, pleasure, and more. Estrogen is also involved in our memory and cognition.

Joint, Skin and Blood Health

Estrogen helps replenish collagen, which helps the skin stay elastic and healthy. Collagen production is also involved with regulating cholesterol and promoting healthy coagulation. This same set of functions also helps the joints stay flexible, which becomes more and more important as you age.

Fluid Balance

Among many other hormones, estrogen assists with balancing salt and water throughout the body. This is one of the most complex and crucial functions of the hormone. Without proper regulation, you may experience weakness, cramps, nausea, headache, and more.

Muscular Health

Estrogen directly affects the musculoskeletal tissues. Along with other hormones, estrogen can improve muscle function and reduce injury rates. In this way, estrogen is influential in muscle health.

Bone Health

Another of estrogen’s primary effects on the body is helping to maintain bone density. Estrogen regulates when the body reabsorbs bone and how much. This regulation ensures you will maintain a healthy skeletal system.


Estrogen helps to regulate and improve metabolism. As a result, estrogen can help to regulate weight. It also plays a role in gastrointestinal health.

Symptoms of Low Estrogen

The symptoms of low estrogen can be as varied as the functions estrogen has within the body. Because it is active in so many different bodily processes, low estrogen affects a number of systems which must then respond to the estrogen deficit, causing symptoms.

Mental Effects

As estrogen dissipates, its ability to regulate mood and focus also wane. Low estrogen may result in moodiness and trouble concentrating. In some cases, low estrogen can be tied to insomnia and mental fatigue. Unfortunately, this can exacerbate the issue, as stress and lack of sleep can be the root causes of estrogen imbalance for some people.

Bone Density Issues

Another common symptom of low estrogen is a decrease in bone density. When bone reabsorption becomes severe, this condition is known as osteoporosis. With enough bone tissue loss, the remaining bones become very brittle and are more fragile than unaffected bones. There are often no symptoms for osteoporosis until a fracture occurs. There is an increased risk of fractures due to the decreased bone strength.

Skin and Joint Issues

Due to estrogen’s role in collagen production, skin regulation, and water uptake, dry skin often occurs alongside low estrogen. With reduced collagen can also come an increase in wrinkles, sagging skin, thinning hair, inflammation and pain in the joints, weakness, and slowed recovery from injuries. Estrogen and collagen depletion can also cause GI issues.

Puberty and Development Issues

In young girls, low estrogen can also lead to a delay in puberty or slower sexual development. This can be difficult to judge as children mature at different rates. However, if some of the other symptoms listed above are also present, the concern should be brought up with your medical provider.

Menopausal Symptoms

Some of the most common symptoms associated with low estrogen are hot flashes and night sweats, which frequently occur during perimenopause and menopause. These can be accompanied by the ceasing of menstruation, tender breasts, an increase in belly fat, decrease in localized estrogen in the vagina which can lead to a decrease in producing vaginal lubrication, and a reduction in sexual desire. Other localized symptoms can be increased urinary tract infection symptoms. Sometimes, headaches can also occur along with or instead of the monthly cycle.

Estrogen and Hormonal Imbalance

Whether you’ve completed a hormone panel and learned you have low estrogen or you’ve experienced the symptoms above, it’s common to wonder why you’re experiencing low estrogen levels. In fact, there is a wide array of issues that may be the culprit. Here are the most common.


The most common cause of low estrogen is advancing age. As the body ages and finishes releasing its store of eggs, the ovaries will reduce the amount of estrogen they produce. This is known as perimenopause before the body ceases menstruation and menopause after menstruation is finished. In younger patients (under 40), this occurrence is termed ovarian insufficiency, though the cause is the same.

Medical Procedures

Certain medical procedures can also prevent the body from producing sufficient estrogen. Notably, chemotherapy and pelvic radiation can temporarily or permanently impair estrogen production. In addition, any procedure to remove the ovaries or inhibit the kidneys, thyroid, or pituitary gland could impair estrogen production.

Dysfunctional Glands

Less commonly, dysregulation of other hormones or issues with the body’s glands can cause depleted estrogen levels. If your thyroid, pituitary gland, or kidneys are not operating properly, your body will not receive the necessary signals to produce estrogen. This will eventually lead to low estrogen.

Autoimmune Disorders

Certain autoimmune diseases or genetic conditions such as Turner syndrome or Fragile X can cause low estrogen levels, among other symptoms. While rare, these conditions should not be ruled out if you are experiencing low estrogen.

Depleted Resources

Other frequent causes of low estrogen include eating disorders, over-exercise and intense stress. These draw heavily on the body’s resources, making it more difficult to produce estrogen. Even in less extreme situations, insufficient vitamins can inhibit the body’s production of estrogen.

Diagnosis for Low Estrogen

Diagnosis for Low Estrogen

When you approach your doctor with symptoms of low estrogen, the first step they should take before a diagnosis is to walk through your symptoms and examine your daily life with you. This helps ensure that they are accounting for all possible issues that could be at the root of your potential low estrogen level. The doctor will want to eliminate other sources of your issue before continuing.

If the doctor determines that low estrogen is a likely cause of your symptoms, the next thing that you can expect is a blood draw. However, this is not always necessary and is patient specific. Estrogen levels are easily detectable in the blood, and your doctor will take a sample to be sent off to the lab for analysis. The lab will send back a report which will be the primary piece necessary for your doctor to give a diagnosis of low estrogen levels.

Lab tests measure three distinct estrogen compounds: estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), and estriol (E3). If you’re in perimenopause or menopause, estrone should be the primary estrogen in the body, while estradiol is associated with your reproductive years, and estriol increases during pregnancy. Once your doctor has checked these numbers, they will be able to determine whether your symptoms are due to low estrogen.

Treatment for Low Estrogen

Treatment for low estrogen has a few different components. The first will include the identification of the root cause and will be different for every person. As indicated above, menopause, eating disorders, autoimmune disorders, gland dysfunction, medical procedures, and more may be the cause of your low estrogen. Your doctor will need to narrow down the cause of your low estrogen to determine the proper treatment.

For many patients, the primary treatment will be hormone replacement therapy. With HRT, you will be prescribed the hormones estradiol and/or progestin to supplement your low estrogen levels.

These supplements come in a variety of different routes depending on the purpose and dose required. Different routes include patches, oral, compounded medications, and pellets. A combination may be more appropriate depending on their medical history or symptoms. For those having particular difficulty with libido or painful sex, topical creams or inserts may be prescribed, as other formulations like pills may not have the desired effect on the vaginal tissue.

Should Low Estrogen Be Treated?

Treatments for low estrogen are generally considered safe. However, there are some considerations you should be aware of when a doctor prescribes hormone replacement therapy long-term.

In patients treated for longer than five years, there can be a slightly increased risk of cancer, blood clots, heart attack, and stroke. As such, patients with histories of certain cancers, heart disease, or existing high blood pressure should be particularly careful to talk about these concerns with their doctor when engaging in treatment for low estrogen. Smokers should also be counseled on smoking cessation as estradiol can increase risks of blood clots, strokes and heart attacks. In most cases, treatment is still appropriate, but this assessment should be made on an individual basis.

Those risks should be balanced with the benefits of treatment for low estrogen, which include prevention of bone loss, prevention of certain components of cardiovascular diseases, and the prevention of other hormonal imbalances connected to the systems that estrogen controls. In people without related risk factors, treatment is nearly always the right decision.

How to Boost Low Estrogen Levels

How to Boost Low Estrogen Levels

There are ways you can increase your chances of improving your estrogen levels. While none of these strategies are likely to solve the low estrogen problem alone, each can contribute to your overall wellness and are things your doctor will recommend to improve your health and decrease your risk of other diseases.

Engage in Moderate Exercise

Exercise is important, but for those experiencing low estrogen, regulation of that exercise is just as critical. Over-exercise can be a direct contributor to low estrogen as it can tax the body’s resources. As a result, if you are dealing with low estrogen symptoms, one way that you can help your body respond to treatment is to moderate how much exercise you are getting. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise per day is a safe zone for most people.

Make Sure You Are Eating Enough

Exercise can also be related to another lifestyle-related cause of low estrogen: being underweight. When your body doesn’t have enough resources to keep itself at a healthy weight, it can also have trouble producing enough estrogen to keep your body running optimally. Be careful not to overeat or drastically cut calories.

Get Your Nutrients

In addition to eating enough food, it is important to eat a healthy diet rich in vitamins and nutrients. While no vitamins are known to directly increase estrogen levels, there is a class of compounds known as phytoestrogens that may help the body do so.

However, more research is needed to examine the association. Phytoestrogens are compounds found in many plants that are very close in structure to human estrogens, and the body may be able to utilize them to assist in estrogen production. Phytoestrogens can be found in a wide variety of foods, such as soy and other beans, flax and sunflower seeds, berries, and some fruits.

Reduce Stress and Get Enough Sleep

Keeping your body from expending resources on unnecessary work goes beyond moderating your workouts. Estrogen-inhibiting stress follows you to work, and it follows you to bed. Reducing your stress and getting enough sleep both help your body defend itself from many disease cases that may cause low estrogen and can also be key players in addressing your low estrogen. Don’t skimp on self-care or sleep, especially if you have low estrogen levels.

Arizona Gynecology Consultants for Women’s Health

Contact Arizona Gynecology Consultants for Women's Health Questions

No matter the specifics of your situation, if you have symptoms that are significantly impacting your quality of life, you should consult with a doctor as soon as possible. Arizona Gynecology Consultants can help you determine the cause of your symptoms, whether it is low estrogen or another condition. Then, we can address the root of the issue at its source by developing a treatment plan. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment.


Preventive Care Screenings Every Woman Needs

Preventive Care Screenings Every Woman Needs

This entry was posted in Ask An Expert and tagged on by .

As a woman, you face a variety of unique health risks that can impact your life immensely if they are left untreated. By visiting a women’s healthcare provider on a regular basis, you can receive essential care and undergo necessary screenings as recommended by your provider. These tests can identify any potential issues early on, and your doctor can provide treatment and care as soon as possible to limit your risk of complications.

No matter your age or where you are in life, scheduling regular preventive screenings and tests performed is essential to stay as healthy as possible. This brief guide to the most important preventive tests that every woman should schedule can help you determine which tests you can expect as you age. Here’s everything you might want to know about essential preventive care screenings for women.

Preventive Care for Women

First, it’s important to note that women’s health screenings are a component of preventive healthcare. Preventive healthcare for women is a form of medical care that focuses on preventing and identifying serious potential health issues that can occur in females. Preventive care is especially important for women as they age because their healthcare needs change quite drastically throughout their lives.

For example, the kind of care and tests a woman needs at the ages of 21-29 looks much different than the kinds of issues women 55 and older experience. From breast cancer screenings to STD tests, preventive care can help women of all ages prevent the onset of certain conditions and identify others at an early stage. With prevention and early detection, you can limit your risk of experiencing harmful or fatal women’s health diseases.

Essential Preventive Care Screenings for Women

There are a variety of preventive tests and screenings all women need, even if they are relatively healthy. Preventive care screenings can identify serious issues such as cervical cancer and breast cancer, which can often exist without symptoms and go undetected until screening takes place. Essential preventive care appointments you should schedule include the following.

Well-Woman Care (Primary)

A well-woman visit is an important exam that differs from your annual physical or check-up. Instead of focusing on your overall physical health, a well-woman exam prioritizes the unique traits of a woman and her health. This includes planning and performing preventive care and screenings for women based on age, risk factors, and the general health of the breasts, uterus, vagina, cervix, and other organs.

Well-woman visits prioritize the individual needs of each patient. It is at this appointment that a woman and her healthcare provider can discuss concerns, wellness goals, or potential screenings. Well-woman visits are recommended for women of all ages so that they can keep up with their overall health and wellness.

Mammograms (Breast Cancer Screenings)

Breast cancer screenings

Breast cancer screenings, termed mammograms, are completed using a tool known as a mammography unit. A mammogram uses X-rays to take a picture of the inside of a woman’s breast so experts can examine it for any potential issues, such as masses or tumors. Regular mammogram screenings are important to detect any signs of breast cancer as early as possible.

While they are most recommended for women aged 40 and over, women of any age who believe they are at risk or are experiencing symptoms of breast cancer should consult with their women’s healthcare provider and schedule a mammogram. Women aged 40 to 44 should consider scheduling yearly mammograms, while women 45 and over should definitely schedule annual mammograms. Once women reach 54, they may consider switching to semi-annual mammograms.

Cervical Cancer Screenings

According to healthcare experts like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a woman should begin scheduling cervical cancer screenings once she reaches the age of 21. It’s recommended that women continue to screen for cervical cancer every three years thereafter to ensure the cervix is still healthy and cancer-free.

To screen for cervical cancer, physicians use a method known as a Pap smear. A Pap smear uses a small tool to scrape the cervix and the area around it for cells that healthcare experts can then test for potential abnormalities. In most cases, the cells collected during a Pap smear will be run through a Pap test and HPV test. A Pap test searches for any signs of cancer, including precancerous cells that are changing shape and may become cancerous if not addressed. The HPV test then checks for the presence of the human papillomavirus, which can cause genital warts and abnormal cell changes that may become cancer.

STD Tests

STD tests, including screenings for chlamydia and gonorrhea, are also important tests for women to schedule regularly when they are sexually active. Because women often do not experience symptoms when they have an STD, regular checks are critical, regardless of how you feel. The longer you go with an untreated STD, the higher your risk of developing long-term issues such as infertility or other diseases. If you are sexually active, schedule regular STD testing at your next well-woman check.

Blood Pressure Screenings

Blood Pressure Screenings

Your blood pressure plays a crucial role in your overall health. When your blood pressure is high, your heart must work harder to pump blood throughout your body. This can cause internal stress on blood vessels and the thickening of your heart’s ventricles, which can increase your risk for heart attacks and strokes. Regular blood pressure screenings are especially important for women who are on birth control, as many varieties are known for increasing blood pressure.

Bone Density Tests

Studies have found that because women go through such a large number of hormonal changes over the years, they face a high risk for osteoporosis later in life. Osteoporosis has been linked to low estrogen levels, which are known to occur after menopause. Because of this, scheduling bone density screenings is especially critical during perimenopause or if you are known to have low estrogen levels. In most cases, bone density tests are performed by using a bone density scan, which is a low-energy X-ray usually done on your spine or forearm.

Thyroid Screenings

Thyroid tests are another important form of preventive care that many women overlook as they begin experiencing other women’s health concerns. Because thyroid issues can begin to appear in young women even before they begin menstruating, it’s crucial that you have regular blood tests performed that evaluate your thyroid and its function. Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are often genetically linked and can affect a woman’s menstrual cycle and overall health.

Colorectal Cancer Screenings

According to the National Cancer Institute, colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers seen in women today. This makes preventive screenings crucial so that any signs of the disease can be identified and treated as early as possible. The older a woman gets, the more significant the risk of colorectal cancer is, which is why most experts recommend screenings beginning around the age of 40. If your healthcare provider identifies precancerous masses, they can be treated or removed before they become dangerous.

HIV Screenings

HIV is a virus that causes AIDS, a disease that affects men and women alike by slowly weakening the immune system and associated organ function over time. Because there is no cure for AIDS, medication can only assist with slowing its progression. Having regular HIV screenings is imperative to protect your health and the health of those you love. If you’re sexually active, you face the risk of transmitting HIV through unprotected sex. Don’t hesitate to get tested for STDs and HIV, regardless of if you show symptoms.

Folic Acid Tests

Folic acid is a form of vitamin B-9 that plays a crucial part in helping the body create new cells, as well as assisting in their growth and function. For women who are looking to get pregnant or women who are already pregnant, folic acid is also vital in helping the baby to grow and develop. When a pregnant woman has a folic acid deficiency, the growing fetus has an elevated chance of developing defects. To ensure you and your baby stay healthy, don’t forget to have your folic acid levels checked.

What Tests Should a Woman Schedule Every Year?

Routine Blood Work

While some tests should be scheduled every few years or only at certain ages, there are specific screenings some women should have done annually to keep up with their health. These include:

  • Well-woman visits
  • Blood pressure screenings
  • Cholesterol screenings
  • Thyroid screenings
  • STD tests
  • Routine blood work

Tests by Age

Once you’ve learned about the various preventive tests and screenings you need to stay healthy, you may feel intimidated by the thought of scheduling your next appointment. Fortunately, the team here at Arizona Gynecology Consultants is prepared to guide you and help you plan for what’s best for your unique needs. If you want to begin planning, here are the screenings and preventive care actions recommended for each age group and how often you need them performed:

18 and Under:

  • Receive HPV vaccinations on the recommended schedule to prevent HPV and the cancers it can cause
  • Have routine blood work done as well as blood pressure and cholesterol checks on an annual basis
  • Have your thyroid levels checked at least once
  • Have STD tests performed annually if you are sexually active or every time you are concerned about symptoms or sexual partners

21 – 29:

  • Begin regular visits with a gynecologist
  • Schedule a well-woman visit yearly
  • Have your first Pap smear performed and continue Pap smears with HPV tests once every three years
  • Have STD tests performed annually if you are sexually active or every time you are concerned about symptoms or sexual partners
  • Perform folic acid tests, especially if you’re looking to get pregnant or are pregnant
  • Have routine blood work done annually, as well as blood pressure and cholesterol checks
  • Have your thyroid levels checked at least once

30 – 39:

  • Schedule a well-woman visit yearly
  • Have a Pap smear with HPV test performed every three years
  • If you have concerns about breast cancer, talk to your clinician about scheduling a mammogram
  • Have STD tests performed annually if you’re sexually active with multiple or changing partners or any time you are concerned you may have an STD
  • Have routine blood work, blood pressure checks, and cholesterol checks performed annually
  • Schedule a thyroid screening

40 – 50:

  • Consider having yearly mammograms to screen for breast cancer from ages 40 to 44
  • Schedule yearly mammograms beginning at 45
  • Begin screening for colorectal cancer around the age of 45, and continue to do so every few years
  • Schedule a well-woman visit yearly
  • Have routine blood work, blood pressure checks, and cholesterol checks annually
  • Schedule a thyroid screening

50 – 65:

  • Continue screening for colorectal cancer every few years
  • Schedule your yearly well-woman visit
  • Schedule yearly mammograms until you reach 55 when you can consider switching to semi-annual mammograms
  • Consult with your clinician to determine whether you need any unique tests performed due to menopause and whether you still require Pap smears
  • Begin having bone density scans performed by 60 if you haven’t already
  • Have routine blood work done annually, as well as blood pressure and cholesterol checks


  • Have bone density scans performed as regularly as your doctor sees fit
  • Schedule your yearly well-woman visit
  • Keep up with your routine blood work, blood pressure, and cholesterol checks
  • Continue screening for colon cancer
  • Discuss mammograms with your doctor to determine whether you still require regular screening

Arizona Gynecology Consultants: Preventive Care Experts

Women's Preventive Care Experts

Here at Arizona Gynecology Consultants, your unique health needs are our priority. We understand just how important it is for women to stay healthy as they age, which is why we are dedicated to helping women at all stages of life to receive the proper screening and care.

Arizona Gynecology Consultants offers gynecology services in Phoenix and in our other locations across the valley, including well-woman visits and primary care for women. We also offer guidance for scheduling the proper preventive care services you need to stay healthy.

To learn more about how the team at Arizona Gynecology Consultants can help you stay healthy, contact us today to book an appointment.


Is It Time for a Mammogram?

Is It Time for a Mammogram?

This entry was posted in Ask An Expert and tagged , on by .

Many women ask about when to get a mammogram. Adults in the US are subject to frequently changing guidance regarding many health screening procedures – particularly those involving women. So, it’s no surprise that many women wonder if it’s time to get a mammogram as they approach their 40s. It’s not uncommon for women who have never had a mammogram to have additional questions surrounding the procedure, as well.

Most women in this age range lead busy and hectic lives, and for some, preventative health care is often far down on the to-do list. However, as women approach middle age, it becomes more important to speak to a doctor about scheduling a mammogram appointment in the future. For women over the age of 40, the time to schedule a mammogram may be right now, especially for those with a family history of breast cancer and those who are otherwise considered to have a high risk for developing breast cancer.

Learn more information about scheduling a mammogram from your friends at Arizona Gynecology Consultants.

Should I Get a Mammogram?

The decision to get a mammogram should be made during a consultation with a doctor. This decision should consider your personal medical history, family history of breast cancer, and other risk factors. The answer to this question is a personal one, and there are determining factors that can suggest the recommended window you should get a mammogram, such as age, genetic predisposition, self-examination, and your doctor’s physical examination. Consult with your doctor to determine the ideal timing for your mammogram screening.

For patients who are within the 40+ age range, have a family history of breast cancer, or have the breast cancer gene, now is a good time to have that conversation with your healthcare provider. In addition, if you are using hormones, if you’ve had breast surgeries, or if you’ve had a cancer diagnosis in the past, share this information with your doctor.

Why Mammograms Are So Important

Mammograms are important because they can detect early signs of breast cancer more effectively than self-check breast exams and doctor breast exams. In fact, mammograms can catch breast cancer long before a lump is apparent, when it’s much easier to treat. The purpose of a mammogram is to identify abnormalities in the breast and determine if additional testing such as another mammogram and/or a biopsy, is necessary to identify or rule out potential cancerous tissue. There are four changes in breasts that mammograms can identify—calcifications, masses, asymmetries, and distortions—all of which are potential indications of cancer.

Mammograms are crucial for finding small cancers early when prospective treatment outcomes are the best. Breast cancer can potentially be an aggressive disease and can advance significantly in a short time. Therefore, monthly self-exams are also important for identifying potential issues between mammograms. Women who are familiar with the way their breasts normally feel can detect symptoms and abnormalities more easily, but it is also critical to get mammograms, especially if you haven’t been conducting regular self-exams.

When combined to form a comprehensive breast care routine, self-check breast exams, annual doctor’s exams, and mammograms are all effective tests, even for those who do not have an increased risk of breast cancer. Tests establish the healthy norm and make it easier to tell when slight differences occur.

Should I Get a Mammogram FAQ

Women Over 40

Consider the following information to determine whether you should ask your doctor about scheduling a mammogram.

Q: At What Age Should You Start Getting Regular Mammograms?

A: As a general guideline, women over the age of 40 and those at higher risk of breast cancer can benefit from routine mammograms. Women under 40 with a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors may need to start getting mammograms earlier. In general, it is important for women 35 and up to talk to their doctor to determine the right screening plan for them.

Q: How Often Should a Woman Get a Mammogram?

A: The frequency of mammograms is also a matter of professional medical recommendation and can vary depending on an individual’s age, health history, and other risk factors.

Here are some general guidelines:

  • Most women aged 40 to 74 need only get a mammogram every two years.
  • Women at elevated risk due to strong family history, genetic predisposition, prior chest radiation, or other risk factors may need to start getting mammograms earlier, have them more frequently, or have additional screening tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

It is important to note that these are just general guidelines. Your doctor may have a different recommendation based on your unique medical situation.

Q: At What Age Do You No Longer Need a Mammogram?

A: Women aged 75 and older may be able to schedule less frequent mammograms or stop them altogether. However, again, women in this age group should discuss the continued need for mammograms with their doctor, as the benefits and risks may change with age. In general, depending on a patient’s medical history, women aged 75 and older may not need to continue their routine exams.

How Fast Can Breast Cancer Develop?

While the rate of cancer growth and development of cancer tissues is specific to the individual patient and depends on a multitude of factors, a study suggests that the average breast cancer doubles in size in about 1.5 years. However, some cancers in the study took under two months to double. This indicates that cancers are unique, so some cancers are much more aggressive and grow much faster. Thus, it is a possibility that cancer that developed after a mammogram screening could be aggressive enough to progress significantly between mammograms.

Interval Cancers

Interval cancers are breast cancers that are discovered in between mammograms. These are typically volatile cancers that may be at a higher stage or grade and larger in size when discovered than those cancers detected in screening. This is because they have developed rapidly within the 11 to 23 months between routine mammograms.

Breast Awareness

It should be noted that women who are “breast aware” are more likely to detect changes in the breast tissue or notice other symptoms when between mammogram screenings. If they can identify masses early enough, these women have better prognosis than those patients who are not breast aware and do not perform regular self-breast exams. This indicates the importance of monthly self-checks and familiarization with one’s own body, even if you are receiving routine mammograms.

Getting Your First Mammogram

If you’ve determined that you are in or near the correct age bracket to get a mammogram or are otherwise at risk of developing breast cancer, it’s time to have a conversation with your doctor. Together, you can determine the right time to start routine mammograms and establish a schedule for regular mammogram screening over time. Then, you’ll schedule an appointment for your first mammogram screening.

There is research-based evidence that indicates mammograms should be, whenever possible, scheduled during the first week of the patient’s menstrual cycle. While this is not always practical or possible, especially for women getting their first breast cancer screening, mammogram results may be more accurate when performed during the first half of the menstrual cycle. One reason for this is that this is when breast tissue is less dense since it is more difficult to detect breast cancer through dense breast tissue.

Preparing For a Mammogram

After you schedule your mammogram, it is important not to allow yourself to become nervous or upset as your appointment day approaches. Most mammograms serve to reassure those that receive them that no cancer is present. Only about two to four mammograms per 1,000 result in a breast cancer diagnosis.

If you’ve scheduled an appointment, the doctor or medical practice conducting the mammogram screening will go over the procedure and may recommend certain actions to take leading up to the appointment. Some recommendations for preparing for the appointment are below.

Before a mammogram, you should:

  • Avoid using antiperspirants, deodorants, powders, creams, perfumes, or lotions on the armpits or under the arm on the day of the exam, as they can show up as white spots on the x-ray and interfere with results.
  • Wear a two-piece outfit since clothing will need to be removed above the waist.
  • Bring a list of questions to ask the radiologist or technologist.

It is also important to tell the technologist at the onset of the exam if there have been any recent changes or issues with your breasts, if you have breast implants, if you are breastfeeding, if you think you might be pregnant, or if you have trouble standing still alone and/or use a cane to walk or stand.

What to Expect at a Mammogram Exam

Mammogram Exam

Once the mammogram is ready to begin, you and the technician will be the only ones in the room. You will be asked to undress and given a wrap to wear during the exam. To get a high-quality image, the breasts must be compressed or flattened. The technologist will place your breast on the machine, and it will be pressed between the machine and an upper plate made of plastic. The plate is lowered to compress the breast for 10 or 15 seconds per image.

The technician will take a minimum of two images of each breast, though more images may be needed if the breasts are larger or if you have implants. The technician will reposition the breast and re-compress it to take images of each side. The sequence is then repeated on the other breast. There may be discomfort or slight pain during the compression. If you feel pain, you should notify the technician so the compression can be adjusted to be more comfortable.

During the exam, it’s important to relax and take deep breaths. Mindful breathing is typically all that is necessary to get you through this quick and relatively painless procedure. Any minor discomfort is well worth detecting breast cancer early, which can often have a more favorable outcome than leaving cancer unchecked and untreated.

After the Mammogram Exam

Your healthcare provider will receive the full results of the mammogram screening after it is completed. If you have not heard from your doctor within ten days, you should call the provider or the facility where the exam took place. Patients who have online access to their medical records may also be able to review the results there. Mammography facilities, however, must provide patients with a summary of their results in an easy-to-understand format within 30 days. Go over the results with your healthcare provider and ask questions if there is anything you do not understand.

Schedule a Consultation

Schedule Mammogram Reminder

Arizona Gynecology Consultants recommends that women over 40 schedule regular mammograms every two years. If you have a family history of breast cancer or another risk factor, consult with one of our physicians to create a custom mammography schedule that addresses those risks.

Our experienced professionals are proud to support breast health and breast health education. Preventative care is the best way to identify breast cancer and other breast health issues as early as possible for the best prognosis. If you are over 40 and have not yet scheduled a mammogram, or are otherwise concerned with your breast health, contact Arizona Gynecology Consultants and schedule a consultation.


Breast Exams Are Necessary for Overall Health

Why Breast Exams Are Necessary for Overall Health

This entry was posted in Ask An Expert and tagged , on by .

Your personal health should be a top priority. No matter what your lifestyle may be, it is important to make sure you are protecting yourself from major health risks and diseases whenever you can. This can help you live a longer, healthier, happier life.

Breast health is a major aspect of your wellbeing, and if you have breasts, you should be sure to monitor them regularly. This can help you and your physician catch any abnormalities or concerns early, when you may be able to prevent serious issues from developing. Unfortunately, people with breasts are not always given the proper tools and resources to take care of themselves. This lack of information or direction can lead to serious health problems that can even be life-threatening if left untreated.

There are several easy ways for you to take care of your breasts from the comfort of your own home. By doing so, you are taking charge of your health and wellness and improving your chances of catching any issues before they become serious.

Basic Facts About Breast Health

Breast cancer is a serious issue all over the world. Unfortunately, many patients develop symptoms of breast cancer without realizing it. This can lead to delays in diagnosis or even misdiagnosis depending on the circumstances. It is vitally important for everyone with breasts to understand what is normal and what is not when it comes to breast health and wellness.

We’ve assembled a list of normal breast conditions you should experience regularly. If your breasts deviate from these benchmarks, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor or with a specialist to investigate your breast health.

Breasts Remain Constant

Unless you are pregnant or breastfeeding, your breasts should not change much. However, keep in mind that it is difficult to say how your breasts should look or feel, because everyone’s body is different. While some people should be alarmed if their breasts become lumpy, others have developed naturally lumpy breasts due to perimenopause or other normal conditions. Remember: breast health is not one size fits all.

You know your body best, so the best way to establish a healthy breast benchmark is to assess your breasts and get an idea of how they look and feel. Then, understand that the look and feel of your breasts should remain the same. If you notice sudden changes, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Standard Temperatures

breasts should remain the same temperature

Your breasts should remain at roughly the same temperature as the rest of your body. If you notice that your breast or part of your breast is warm to the touch, it may be a sign of inflammation. Inflammation can indicate mastitis or other concerning conditions. On the other hand, inflammation may simply be a sign of a pulled muscle in your chest or similar.

Regardless of the scenario, be sure to see a physician if you notice a temperature difference between your breasts and the rest of your body. Similarly, schedule an appointment if there is a lasting temperature difference from one part of your breast to another. Though it may not be a serious situation, it is best to be safe and have it checked.

Normal Nipple Conditions

Most people do not discharge any fluid from their nipples unless they are currently or have recently been breastfeeding or pregnant. If you notice discharge when you have not recently been pregnant or breastfeeding, you may want to consult with your doctor. If you have bloody nipple discharge, you should see a doctor right away whether or not you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Blood discharged from the nipples is never normal and should always be cause for concern.

No Armpit Swelling

The breasts and armpits are not only located near one another—they are also closely linked. Your armpits are the site of several lymph nodes. When you are sick or fighting disease, your lymph nodes often become swollen, inflamed, or sensitive. Under normal conditions, the lymph nodes in your armpit should not cause pain, tenderness, or any other issues.

If you notice swelling in your armpits, it may be a sign that something is happening in your breasts. This is a key indication that you should see a doctor, especially if the issue persists for more than a few days.

Remember: Breasts Can Hurt

Many people believe that pain is an automatic indication of a problem. However, this is not always the case. If you experience breast tenderness or pain, it is likely nothing to worry about. Many people experience breast pain during and before menstruation. Clothing and increased activity levels can also cause some breast pain. Usually, minor breast pain has a simple and innocuous cause.

If you notice that you are experiencing breast pain that is not related to menstruation, or your breast pain only affects one breast and not the other, you should see a doctor. A localized examination may help to rule out problems.

Perform a Self-Breast Exam

Perform a Self-Breast Exam

One of the best ways for you to keep your breasts healthy is by performing a self-examination on your own breasts. Because you have intimate knowledge of your own body and easy access to your breasts, a self-examination can alert you to any changes or concerns that may arise. As mentioned, every body is different, and you know yours best.

While your doctor will examine your breasts at least annually, you should check your own at least once per month. Many people opt to do their breast exams while they are menstruating, as it is a good reminder that it is time to check in. However you would like to schedule your self examinations, just remember to be thorough and perform an exam once per month.

How to Perform a Self-Breast Exam

It is not only important to perform regular breast examinations, it is also important to do them correctly. If you have never been taught how to properly examine breast tissue, you may miss key indicators of serious disease.

Step 1: Choose a Position

You can perform your breast exam in several different positions, depending on what is more comfortable for you and what gives you easiest access to all of your breast tissue. Each option is equally beneficial.

Laying Down

When you lay down on your back on a bed or on the floor, your breast tissue will naturally spread out across your chest. This gives you equal access to all areas of your breast and allows you to be thorough. However, some individuals prefer to see what they are doing, and laying down may not give you a sufficient vantage point.


When you stand for your breast exam, you will need to be able to raise your arm over your head so it is important to perform your exam in a space where there is room to assume this position. Standing allows you examine your breasts in their natural position, where it can be easier to determine what feels normal and what does not.


Many people opt to perform their breast exams while standing in the shower. Though the process is the same as standing anywhere else, the shower offers a private location where the breasts are already exposed. The warm water and soap can also be gentle on the skin, and allow the process to be more comfortable.

No matter the position that you choose, be sure you are able to perform a thorough check of your breast tissue.

Step 2: Inspect Visually

The first step for a breast exam is to inspect your breasts visually. Use a mirror in a room with good lighting. You should be looking for shape changes, dimpling, or swelling. Please note that most people have breasts that are asymmetrical. A difference in size between your two breasts is not a concern unless the difference has changed drastically since your last exam.

Inspect Manually

Step 3: Inspect Manually

When you have finished your visual exam, you can begin to inspect your breasts manually. Begin with light pressure and move around your breast tissue in a circular motion until you have inspected all areas. Repeat this with medium and then heavy pressure to ensure that you have assessed all areas of your breast. Perform the entire process again with your arm raised, then move on to the other breast.

You should be looking for lumps, abnormal areas, discharge, nipple redness, or spots that have changed since your last breast exam. If you feel something strange or abnormal that concerns you, schedule an appointment with a clinic or doctor’s office to have it examined. Though it may ultimately be something innocuous, it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Why Inspect Monthly?

Some people wonder monthly breast exams are necessary. The fact is, breast cancer and other diseases can be aggressive, and a significant amount of change can happen in as little as a month. Monitoring over time can also help clue you in to slower changes in your breasts. What’s more, these examinations are free and very easy. It only costs you about five minutes of your time, and there is no invasive testing or inconvenient doctor’s appointments. A self-breast exam is free, simple, and a great way to take care of your health and safety.

You should still continue to get regular physical exams and mammograms done by a doctor in accordance with your age and health status. Self-inspections should not replace professional care, but they can help you catch issues early, while they are still treatable. If you neglect caring for your body and breasts, a minor concern can quickly develop into a life threatening conditions that is both painful and costly to manage.

 Trust Arizona Gynecology Consultants

Trust Arizona Gynecology Consultants

The professional team at Arizona Gynecology Consultants is here to support you in breast and overall health. We are passionate about providing accessible, approachable healthcare, and we look forward to supporting you in your journey. For more information, please contact us online today.