What is gynecology? What do gynecologists do?

What do you mean by gynecology?

Gynecology is the branch of medical science related to the female reproductive system. Gynecology is the field that deals with primarily non-pregnant women and their hormonal, urinary tract, uterus-concerning, and vaginal-related issues. This branch deals in both surgical as well as medicinal ways.

Who is a gynecologist?

A gynecologist is a doctor and surgeon who deals with the health of females. They treat the female reproductive system and organs like the uterus, vulva, fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix and breast cancer, vagina, contraception, menstrual, menopause sexuality, hormonal, and contraception issues.

When should one visit a gynecologist?
One should visit a gynecologist for the following reasons-

  • Menstruation problems, irregular or abnormal periods, severe cramps during the monthly cycle
  • Pregnancy termination, sterilization, and contraception
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI)
  • Breast cancer, cervix cancer, or cancers on the reproductive tracts.
  • Menopause
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Problems with ligaments, tissues, and muscles that support the pelvic organs.
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Endometriosis is a condition that can affect the reproductive system
  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Conditions such as vulvar, fibroids, vaginal ulcers, ovarian cysts, and breast-related problems
  • Urinary incontinence
  • health problems regarding bisexuality or same-sex relations
  • annual check-up

What tests does a gynecologist perform?
The gynecologist might ask the patient to get specific tests done depending on the symptoms and problems. Those tests are-

Screening tests-

  • Human papillomavirus or HPV test- Doctors recommend this test if the PAP test is unclear or it shows some abnormalities that can be an outcome of HPV infection. In this test, the doctors collect samples from the cervix with a brush, collect some cells from the cervix, and then they send them to a laboratory for a microscopic view. They check if abnormal cells are present that may lead to cancer.
  • Mammography- It is an excellent method to detect breast cancer. It has the ability to detect cancer at an early stage. But since it is a sensitive method, a biopsy is done to confirm the presence of cancer cells.
  • Papanicolaou or PAP test- This test can initially identify cervical cancer. They are also able to detect the precancerous changes in the cells. This test helps prevent cancer and begin early treatment. This test is like the HPV test, wherein the doctors collect a sample of the cells from the cervix and send them to the laboratory for further analysis.

Hormonal tests-

  • Estrogen test- It is a blood test that checks for the estrogen level in the body. Estrogen is a hormone that assists in the wellness of a woman. For example, doctors recommend estrogen tests for infertile women or women with vaginal bleeding even after menopause, abnormal menstrual cycles, or when puberty does not hit.
  • Progesterone test- Progesterone assists the uterus in preparing for a fertilized egg. If the uterus receives a fertilized egg, the progesterone level continues to be high. But if the egg is not fertilized, it results in a new menstrual cycle, and the progesterone level reduces. If the progesterone level is low during pregnancy, it can lead to miscarriage.
  • Follicle Stimulating hormone or FSH Test- The pituitary gland in the brain produces this hormone and stimulates the egg’s growth in the uterus. Gynecologists ask for this test in PCOS cases, irregular menstrual cycles, ovarian cysts, or tumors in the pituitary gland.
  • Testosterone test- Even though testosterone is a male hormone, females also produce it in the ovaries. One must check for this test if she is missing her periods, has symptoms of PCOS, acne, weight gain, infertility, male pattern baldness, facial hair development, or a decrease in sexual drive.
  • Thyroid hormones- Thyroid is more common in females than in males. Moreover, the thyroid can affect pregnancy and fertility.

There are three thyroid hormones-
Thyroid stimulating hormone or TSH- The pituitary gland evokes this hormone and tells the thyroid gland to create more or less of this hormone.
Thyroxine or T4 is an inactive hormone that can change to an active state.
Triiodothyronine- This hormone is in active form, primarily when thyroxine converts.

Diagnostic Testing-

  • Cervical biopsy- Doctors might perform this test in case your HPV was positive, or there were some abnormal things in your pelvic exam or PAP test. Usually, this test is done after a week of the monthly cycle.
  • Colposcopy- This test helps find out inflammation in the cervix, genital warts, precancerous cells, and genital issues. Doctors usually suggest this after an abnormal PAP test.
  • Laparoscopy- It is different from open surgery. But gynecologists use this to remove fibroids, and the uterus, perform tubal ligation, diagnose ovarian cysts and endometriosis and treat chronic pelvic pain.
  • Cystoscopy- Gynecologists recommend this test if the person has blood in the urine, painful urination, or an overactive bladder. It also helps in diagnosing bladder cancer.
  • Hysteroscopy– It is a method that helps in the diagnosis and treatment of uterine and cervical bleeding. Doctors also use this method in the removal of abnormal tissues.

What is the difference between a gynecologist and an obstetrician?

Though both a gynecologist and an obstetrician deal with women and reproduction, there is a slight difference between the two.
An obstetrician mainly deals with pregnancy. They take care of the person before the pregnancy, assist in delivering the baby, and provide post-pregnancy care for the baby and the mother.
On the other hand, a gynecologist deals with problems and the well-being of the female reproductive system. For example, they help in fertility, hormonal imbalance, and regulating the period cycle. Also, they treat cancer of the female reproductive organs and reduce the pain and injuries in these areas.
There is also a difference between the training of the two. An obstetrician is more precise and has better training in dealing with pregnancy and childbirth.
They also can practice and train in both fields. After their training, they can choose to be a specialist in obstetrics, gynecology or practice in both areas. The person who has training and is practicing in both gynecology and obstetrician is known as OBGYN, or they put OB/Gynae in their academic and professional world.

How do gynecologists treat cervix cancer and breast cancer?

Gynae treats the cancers of the female reproductive organs based on the stage of cancer, general health of the patient, type of cancer, and whether the patient wants to conceive in the future.

The most common ways that gyne is used to treat reproductive cancer are –

Immunotherapy: In this method, the doctors prescribe medicines that can boost the immunity system and kill cancer cells.

Chemotherapy: In this therapy, the doctors inject the drugs through the patient’s mouth or veins. These drugs mix in the blood and help kill the cancer cells.

Radiation: This method uses radiation energy to kill the cancer cells. There are different types of radiation that doctors use.

Surgeries: Gynecologists use various kinds of surgeries depending on the case. They use pelvic exenteration, laser surgery, cryosurgery, cone biopsy, hysterectomy, etc.

What do gynecologists do for PCOS and hormonal imbalance?

The treatment for these depends on the root cause. The doctors will treat the patient for hormonal imbalance based on what causes the issue. They might inject drugs or give oral medication if there is any deficiency of the hormones. If your hormones are in quality more than required, the doctors will opt for other methods like pills, surgery, or radiation, depending on the cause.
For PCOS, generally, they recommend a lifestyle change and prescribe a combination of hormonal pills, birth control pills, or use progestin therapy to regulate the menstrual cycle.

What should one expect at a gynecologist visit?

Often, many people are nervous while visiting a gynecologist for the first time. But it is the responsibility of an excellent gynecologist to make the patient comfortable and be polite to them.
Your doctor will first ask general questions like age, weight, name, etc. Further, they will ask about your problem and the symptoms that you are facing. Next, they may ask some personal questions about you, such as about your family history and whether anyone else had a similar problem in the family. Or they might ask about your physical relationship, the frequency, if you are using any contraceptives, birth control pills, etc.
Your gynecologist might even ask you to get specific tests done. Then, based on those tests, your doctor will start your treatment. Or she might examine you physically if she feels the need to do so.

Women face a lot of physical issues. But the well-being of women and young girls is essential. Unfortunately, many women and girls feel shy or scared to visit a gynecologist. But it is necessary to see an expert if you think there is something abnormal with your reproductive system or hormones. Just as we see a doctor when we have other physical issues like fever, allergies, diarrhea, etc., similarly, we must seek help from a gynecologist if we have problems with our reproductive organs or hormonal imbalance.
We at Asian hospital, Faridabad, have the best gynecologists with expertise and years of experience in their field. They deal with the patients politely, without making them anxious.
So, do not delay, do not wait, and visit the best gynecologist to maintain your well-being.

Content Reviewed by – Asian Hospital Medical Editors