Although it’s common for women to see a gynecologist for their women’s health concerns or Well-Woman’s screenings, gynecologists are more commonly becoming a source of general care for their patients. Called a general practitioner, this can mean that your gynecologist can provide some care beyond the typical women’s care. Here’s what to know about general practice.
There are three types of prevention that your general practitioner can provide that serve different purposes. These include:
Primary prevention keeps disease from occurring at all by removing its causes. The most common clinical primary care preventive activities involve immunizations to prevent communicable diseases, drugs, and behavioral counseling. Primary prevention has prevented many deaths from two major killers, lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. Primary prevention is now possible for cervical, skin and breast cancer; bone fractures, and alcoholism.
Secondary prevention detects early disease when it is asymptomatic and when treatment can stop it from progressing. Secondary prevention is a two-step process involving a screening test and follow-up diagnosis, as well as treatment for those with the condition of interest. Testing asymptomatic patients with routine Pap smears and screening mammography are examples.
Tertiary prevention describes clinical activities that prevent deterioration or reduce complications after a disease has declared itself. Tertiary prevention is just another term for treatment.
There are four major types of clinical preventive care which apply throughout the lifespan of each patient. These include:
Childhood immunizations to prevent 15 different diseases largely determine visit schedules to the pediatrician in the early months of life. Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations of adolescent girls and boys has recently been added for prevention of cervical cancer. Adult immunizations include diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus (TDaP), as well as vaccinations to prevent influenza, pneumococcal pneumonia, hepatitis A and B, and herpes zoster.
Screening is the identification of an asymptomatic disease, harmful condition, or risk factor. Screening tests start in the prenatal period (such as testing for Down syndrome) and continue throughout life (eg. Pap smears, mammography, fasting lipids).
Clinicians counsel patients to stop smoking, eat a prudent diet, drink alcohol moderately, exercise, and engage in safe sexual practices. It’s important to have evidence that behavior change decreases the risk for the condition of interest, and counseling leads to behavior change before spending time and effort on this approach to prevention.
Chemoprevention is the use of drugs to prevent disease. It is used to prevent disease early in life (eg. folate during pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects and ocular antibiotic prophylaxis in all newborns to prevent gonococcal ophthalmia neonatorum) but is also common in adults (eg. low-dose aspirin prophylaxis to prevent myocardial infarction, and statins to treat hypercholesterolemia and thus prevent cardiovascular disease).
Prevention is extremely important in making sure you live a long, healthy life with the help of your gynecologist and general practitioner. To schedule an appointment and begin discussing your options, contact our New York City office by calling or filling out our online form.
Maternal Fetal Medicine blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!