Women's Health Portal

 Screenings and Vaginal Health

Last Updated: November 06, 2023
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Why is Screening Important? 

Screenings are medical tests to check for diseases and health conditions before there are any signs or symptoms. Screenings help find problems early on when they may be easier to treat. Women’s Health Screenings are essential in keeping women healthy. 

Recommended Health Screenings

  • Breast CancerExternal Link is a disease in which cells in the breast grow out of control. Although breast cancer screening cannot prevent breast cancer, it can help find breast cancer early, when it is easier to treat. All women are encouraged to do routine physical self exams to check for abnormal lumps in their breast tissues. Wellness exams are an opportunity to have a healthcare provider perform a physical  exam. The mammogram is considered the best way to detect this cancer early on for most women of ​​screening age. The U.S.​ Preventive Services Task ForceExternal Link recommends that women who are 50 to 74 years old at average risk for breast cancer get a mammogram every 2 years; women 40 to 49 years old should talk to their health care provider about when to start and how often. ​​
  • Cer​vical CancerExternal Link is cancer that starts in the cervix, which is the lower, narrow part of the uterus (womb). Cervical cancers are often caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Cervical cancer is the easiest gynecological cancer to prevent with regular screening tests and HPV vaccination, and is also very curable when found and treated early. 
  • Pap TestExternal Link (or Pap smear) lo​oks for cancers and precancers in the cervix (the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina). Precancers are cell changes that might become cancer if they are not treated the right way.

C​​​om​mon Ailments

​If you have concerns about the conditions described, you should contact your Primary Care Manager (PCM). If you are not certain, you can contact the Military Health System's Nurse Advice Line at 1-800-TRICARE (1-800-874-2273, option 1). ​

  • Bacterial VaginosisExternal Link (BV) is a condition that happens when there is too much of certain bacteria in the vagina. This changes the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina. 
  • Urinary Tract InfectionsExternal Link (UTIs) or "bladder infections" are most often caused by bacteria (germs) that get into the bladder, which is part of the urinary tract. UTIs are common, especially in women. More than half of women will have at least one UTI at some point in life. UTIs are serious and often painful, but most UTIs are easy to treat with antibiotics.

          ​     - Urinary Tract Infections sheet (Army): PDF 

  • Vulvova​​ginal CandidiasisExternal Link or "yeast infection" - Some yeast or fungus normally lives in a healthy woman's vagina. Too much yeast, you can have vaginal burning and/or itching and sometimes sticky, white vaginal discharge. 

               - Vaginal Infections sheet (Army): PDF

Menstruation

The menstrual cycle is the monthly series of changes a woman's body goes through in preparation for the possibility of pregnancy. On average, a woman's period (menstrual flow) occurs every 28 days (may vary from 24 to 34 days) and normally lasts about 4 to 7 days, but since each woman’s cycle can be different it is important to both understand your own cycle as well as recognize abnormal symptoms: 

  • Menstrual S​ymptoms sheet (Army): P​DF ​​

  • Abnormal Uterine BleedingExternal Link can oc​cur as either a change in your normal menstrual period (heavier or longer) or bleeding (including "spotting") in between cycles. 

  • Premenstrual SyndromeExternal Link or "PMS" is a combination of symptoms that many women get about a week or two before their period. Most women, over 90%, say they get some premenstrual symptoms, such as bloating, headaches, and moodiness. For some, PMS may be so severe that they miss work or school, but other women are not bothered by milder symptoms. On average, women in their 30s are most likely to have PMS. 

  • Meno​pauseExternal Link is the time when your menstrual periods stop permanently and you can no longer get pregnant. The years leading up to that point, when women may have changes in their monthly cycles, hot flashes, or other symptoms, are called the menopausal transition or perimenopause, and your body makes much less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Menopausal transition most often begins between ages 45 and 55External Link.  



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For services available through the Military Health System, visit their Women's HealthExternal Link webpage.