As a Naturopathic Doctor who does Paps and with a major focus on Gynecological Concerns, I was so excited to read this article about Naturopathic Doctors offering pap tests!
Then an interesting follow-up article appeared! Don’t let the click-baity headline fool you, this second article went into more detail as to why you might opt to do this test with a Naturopathic Doctor when it is fully covered by public health care.
Not every Naturopathic Doctor offers gynecological exams and Pap tests but now you know about those of us who do!
What is a Pap test?
A Pap test or Pap smear is a screening test for abnormal cervical cells.
The cervix is the tissue that forms the passageway from the uterus to the vaginal canal. The cells of the cervix can become abnormal and over time can become cancerous.
To perform a Pap test, a speculum is inserted into the vaginal canal so the cervix is visible. Then cells are collected from the cervix. These cells are examined under a microscope and if abnormal cells are seen, they are given a grading (either high-grade or low-grade).
Screening via the Pap test is recommended for women and people with cervixes who are or have been sexually active starting at age 21 every 3 years but screening may be more frequent depending on your medical history.
“Why pay if it’s paid by OHIP?”
Why pay for something that you could otherwise get for free? The simple answer is that a routine Pap test from your family doctor is not always a good substitute for a Pap test from your Naturopathic Doctor – here are the main differences:
1. No rush
What is the number one reason patients choose Naturopathic Doctors?
Have you ever waited over an hour (or more!) to see your medical doctor, to have only 10-15 minutes to somehow cover everything you need help with? I have done this way too many times…
Depending on your doctor, you might also be limited to only one issue per visit! I don’t know about you, but my body didn’t get the memo that it can only have one problem or symptom at a time…
And once you actually get your valuable face-to-face with your doctor, you need to blurt out everything as quickly as possible since he or she is only going to listen for about 11 seconds before interrupting…
Don’t rush your health
I actually spend the time needed to listen to you and don’t rush you in and out. I understand you are a human being, not a robot! Being rushed is not compatible with effectively addressing gynecological issues and related exams.
2. Get answers to your questions
Ask me anything
Nearly every time I see a new patient with HPV (the sexually-transmitted virus that causes most abnormal cells on pap tests), we inevitably spend time answering questions such as:
- What is HPV?
- Will I get cervical cancer?
- Can HPV be cured?
- Does my partner have HPV?
- What is a pap/colposcopy/biopsy/LEEP?
- What are my treatment options?
- What are the risks and benefits of treatment?
I have often wondered why a patient who has usually ALREADY seen their family medical doctor AND a specialist is asking me these questions?
According to these patients, their medical doctors have either given them no time to ask such questions or have failed to answer them in a way the patient understands. Maybe you can relate?
Seeing a Naturopathic Doctor is often the first time you are able to get answers to your questions which is necessary to have peace of mind and to make informed medical decisions!
“‘Patients can ask questions about contraception, pelvic pain, pain during sex and menstrual, reproductive health,'”
Beyond questions about Paps and HPV, I review test results with you to ensure you understand them fully and ask questions about PMS, periods, perimenopause, and other reproductive concerns. And I check in to see if you have any questions for me!
3. Extra care and attention
“Is a Pap test really that awful?”
The answer is, for some women and people with cervixes, yes!
Many patients are comfortable enough with this exam and most medical doctors do a fine job, but we can’t ignore the many patients that appreciate a more patient, informative, and sensitive approach for any number of good reasons.
True informed consent
Before performing a gynecological exam, I speak with you to understand you health history and reasons for the exam. This ensures that I perform the right exam and testing for your needs. I also ask about past experiences with the exam which helps me adjust my approach to ensure you are comfortable.
Finally, I explain the parts of the exam before we start and then verbalize what I am doing as we go so you know exactly what is happening and why.
Seems simple right? As a Naturopathic Doctor it is possible to provide this level of care and attention to my patients.
4. Appropriate treatment
Naturopathic Doctors can treat HPV, yeast, bacterial vaginosis, itching, discharge, odour, warts, herpes, and more, often in addition to conventional medical treatment or when that treatment has not been effective.
In fact these health concerns make up a very large part of my practice and I’m so happy to be able to help patients find the right treatment.
In addition to Paps, I can also order vaginal swabs to diagnose bacterial vaginosis and yeast, and I perform in-office vaginal pH testing which can help make immediate treatment decisions while waiting for results from other testing.
“Difficult access to a primary care provider is one of the reasons patients come to the naturopathic clinic in the first place.”
Naturopathic Doctors are primary care practitioners, meaning we can assess, diagnose, and treat patients. If you are not able to get in to see your family medical doctor on a reasonable timeline or do not have a family doctor at all, Naturopathic Doctors can fill that gap and ensure you get the care you need.
For more info on how Naturopathic Medicine can be helpful for HPV and cervical dysplasia, watch my video:
5. Choose a female doctor
For such a personal and intimate exam, you may prefer a female doctor. It can be easier to speak to a female doctor about your health concerns and a female doctor has certainly also had a gynecological exam herself!
The majority (according to the article, 80%!) of Naturopathic Doctors are female. Not every Naturopathic Doctor offers gynecological exams, but your Naturopathic Doctor can refer you to one who does for relevant exams and testing.
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