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Women's Health

university health services

By the age of 21, regardless of sexual activity, all women need to begin seeing a gynecologist annually.


Annual Check Up

Who should get an annual gynecological check-up?

Your age and health determine when you need screening and which tests you should have.

Under 21 years of age:  No pap testing unless experiencing symptoms (see below) then pelvic exam and annual urine GC/CT testing or cervical GC/CT are recommended. Symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Bleeding outside your normal period
  • Constipation
  • Pelvic pressure
  • Problems such as pain
  • Urinary incontienence
  • Vaginal discharge

Age 21-29: Pap with reflex to HPV every 3 years (unless symptomatic).  Annual STD screening recommended. 

Age 30-64:  Pap and HPV co-testing every 3 years (unless symptomatic).

What will occur during a routine exam?
  1. A visual examination of your genital area to look for any sign of infection or other abnormalities
  2. A Pap test (see below for details)
  3. A physical exam to determine the position and size of your uterus and ovaries
  4. A conversation with your health care provider to determine your personal risk factors for conducting any additional screening tests for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI's)
  5. Any questions you may have regarding your health will be answered

What is a Pap test?A small amount of cells will be taken from the cervix and sent for laboratory analysis for identification of pre-cancerous changes, inflammation or infection.

Why should I have a Pap test?It is important for early detection and treatment.  Cervical cancer is 100% curable when detected in the pre-cancerous or early stage. In addition, other STI screenings can be added to the PAP specimen.

For further information or to set up an exam call Health Services at 552-3225.

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Breast Self Exams"Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women, and the second leading cause of cancer. More than 178,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed this year, and over 44,000 women will die from the disease. With early detection and prompt, state-of-the-art treatment, the five-year survival rate is 97 percent."
-The Center for Disease Control

What can I do to help reduce my risk for breast cancer?
For average-risk asymptomatic women in their 20's and 30's, it is recommended that a clinical breast exam be part of a periodic health examination, preferable at least every three years.  Additionally, every woman should perform breast self exams each month. If anything is detected or questions arise, contact your health care provider as soon as possible.

Click here for information on how to perform a breast self exam.

National Cancer Institute
A variety of information about breast cancer, early detection, treatment and more.

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Pregnancy Services

The emotional, spiritual, and health issues during a pregnancy can seem overwhelming.  At Boston College, we will make every effort to provide you with a supportive environment intended to assure caring, confidential, non-judgmental, professional assistance and to support others affected by the pregnancy as well.  There are many resources available to you that will assist you in continuing and completing your degree. 

The goal of the University is to provide a comprehensive support team that emphasizes caring and personal respect. If you are pregnant, or if you know someone who is pregnant, this web site describes the support services available at BC. It provides basic information and the names of individuals who are ready to assist you. Please feel free to contact any of the individuals or offices listed to discuss your situation. All consultations will be handled confidentially.

UNIVERSITY HEALTH SERVICES provides confidential free pregnancy testing. Call 617-552-3225 to schedule an appointment. Health Services can help arrange referrals with off-campus physicians, provide nutritional guidance, and answer questions about what to expect during pregnancy.

Thomas I. Nary, M.D.
Director, University Health Services

Yolanda Hobin, RN, FNP-BC
Women's Health, University Health Services

Please visit the Boston College Pregnancy Services web site for detailed information about Housing, Academic Planning, Educational Financing, FAQ, Counseling Services, and Off Campus Resources

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Genital HPV and the New HPV Vaccine

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infections are the most common sexually transmitted infections in the United States.   More than 40 HPV types can be spread through direct sexual contact.  Of these, about a dozen including HPV types 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58 are high-risk ~ that is, persistent infections with these HPV types can cause cellular changes that may progress to cancer. HPV types 16 and 18 are responsible for approximately 70% of all cervical cancers and HPV types 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58 are responsible for another 20 % of cervical cancers.  Types 6 and 11 are low risk types that do not cause cancer but can cause genital warts.

In December 2014, the FDA approved the 9-valent vaccine Gardasil 9, which protects against infection with HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58.

Who Gets HPV?Anyone who has ever had genital contact with another person who has genital HPV.  You are more likely to get HPV if you have:

  1. Engaged in sexual activity at an early age
  2. A history of multiple sex partners
  3. Sexual contact with a partner who has a history of multiple sex partners

Since many women will have genital HPV at some point in their lives it is very important to screen for the disease by getting regular Pap Tests.  Early detection can save your life !

Ways of Reducing the Risk of Exposure to HPVAbstinence is the surest way since exposure to the virus is possible even while wearing condoms because of infected areas that may not be covered.  The most serious consequence of genital HPV is cervical cancer in women.  A Pap Test is the best way to screen for HPV. 

New Vaccine to Prevent Cervical CancerIn June 2006, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to recommend the first vaccine developed to prevent cervical cancer and other diseases caused by certain types of genital human papilloma virus (HPV).  The HPV vaccine protects against 4 HPV types, which together cause 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts.

Who Should Get the Vaccine?The vaccine is recommended for two groups:

  • 11-12 year old girls, can be given as young as 9
    • Ideally before they are sexually active
    • Most effective in people who have not yet acquired any of the 4 HPV types covered by the vaccine 
  • 13-26 year old girls/women who have not yet received or completed the series

The vaccine has been widely tested in the 9-26 year old range but research, safety and efficacy has only recently begun on women older than 26 years of age.

What Does the HPV Vaccine Not Cover?

  • Certain types of cervical cancers will not be prevented by the vaccine
  • It does not prevent against all types of genital warts and won't prevent other STIs.
  • It is also important for sexually active adults to continue with annual exams and to reduce exposure to HPV and other STIs.

Obtaining the VaccineThe HPV vaccine is a series of three shots over a six month period of time and is available at Health Services by calling 617-552-3225 and scheduling an appointment.  The cost of the vaccine is $130 per dose and gets charged to your student account.

You will need to check with your health insurance about questions regarding your personal policy coverage in relation to payment for the HPV vaccine.

For additional information visit the CDC HPV Web site

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Osteoporosis is a disease found primarily in women which weakens and thins bones over time. Often times individuals are unaware of their bone frailty until they break a bone. Osteoporosis is preventable if one begins to take preventative measures at an early age:

  • Calcium: Foods that are high in calcium are integral to preventing osteoporosis. These foods include cheese, yogurt, milk, and dark-green leafy vegetables like kale, collard, and broccoli.
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps your body to absorb calcium, so look for foods (especially milk and cereal) fortified with Vitamin D.
  • Exercise: Exercise helps to build and strengthen bones.

Click here for more information about osteoporosis.

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Yeast Infections

Did you know?...Approximately "75%" of all women will experience a yeast infection at least once in their lifetime?

What is a yeast infection?
Yeast is always present in the female body. An infection occurs due to a shift in the pH of the vagina causing excess yeast.

What are the symptoms of a yeast infection?
Symptoms may include: itching, burning and irritation in the vagina, painful urination and/or intercourse, and thick white discharge.

What causes a yeast infection?
There are a variety of causes of a yeast infection. Some of the most common are:

  • Antibiotics
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Douching
  • Perfumed feminine hygiene sprays
  • Wearing tight and/or poorly ventilated clothing

What to do if you think you have a yeast infection?
The best thing to do if you suspect you may have a yeast infection is to see a doctor or nurse practitioner for a diagnosis and course of treatment. It is especially important to seek medical advice if you have recurrent yeast infections.

For further information or to schedule an appointment call Health Services a 617-552-3225

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