Q: How often should you get a physical if you’re in general good health?
Dr. Linda M. Tetor, family practice, Kihei Wailea Medical Center: It used to be a common practice for people to get a checkup every year, even if they were healthy. But in the past few years, researchers have found that most people don’t get much benefit from an annual physical exam, and groups like the American Medical Association have moved away from recommending it.
That doesn’t mean that you can skip checkups altogether. In general, healthy people should get a physical every two to three years in their 20s, every other year in their 30s and 40s, and annually starting around age 50. You should also get regular health screenings like skin checks, pap smears, mammograms and colorectal cancer screening. Talk to your doctor about what screenings are recommended for your age, gender and health history.
Q: What is implantation bleeding during pregnancy?
Dr. Christy Takemoto, OB-GYN, Maui Lani Physicians & Surgeons: Implantation bleeding is a small amount of bleeding that occurs about 10 to 14 days after conception. It is thought to happen when the fertilized egg reaches the uterus and implants itself into the lining. When this occurs, it can break up some of those tissues and cause bleeding. This usually occurs around the time that you would expect to have a menstrual period, although it is usually much lighter and it won’t last as long. While implantation bleeding is not a cause for alarm, bleeding or spotting later in pregnancy can be a sign of a problem. If you notice spotting in your second or third trimester, tell your doctor.
Q: I have been on birth control pills for over 20 years. Is that bad for me?
Dr. Stacy Ammerman, OB-GYN, Maui Lani Physicians & Surgeons: If birth control pills are working well for you, you can keep taking them. Most people can take birth control pills for as long as they need to prevent pregnancy, with a few exceptions. If you are a smoker over age 35, or if you have certain health conditions, like a blood clotting disorder or hypertension, you should not take a birth control pill that contains the hormone estrogen.
Some women are concerned about the connection between birth control and cancer. Studies have found that people who take hormonal birth control pills have a slightly higher risk of breast cancer, as well as a slightly higher risk of cervical cancer. In both cases, the risk increased the longer the person spent on oral contraceptives and decreased over time when they stopped. But hormonal birth control also seems to offer protection against some cancers. Women who took birth control pills have a lower risk of endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer and colorectal cancer.
Hormonal birth control affects women in different ways. If you have questions or concerns, talk to your doctor. They can discuss the potential risks and benefits, and share different opinions for long-term birth control, like an IUD, subdermal implant or a contraceptive injection.
* Physicians, providers and administrative staff who practice at Maui Health System hospitals and clinics answer questions from the public in Healthwise Maui, which will appear regularly on Thursdays. Maui Health System operates Maui Memorial Medical Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lana’i Community Hospital and accepts all patients. To submit a question, go to the website at mauihealthsystem.org/contact.