By Cassondra Lynn, age 15, California
Let's face it. Some of us just don't want to talk about our bodies. But there are some things that really have to be talked about ... with our doctors.
First of all, make sure you have a good doctor. Someone who you can respect and will respect you in return. Someone you can trust. Most people prefer a doctor of the same sex, but the other gender is just as good for some. Forget pediatricians - go straight for a "grown up doctor". Basically, get someone you're comfortable with.
So once you get there, what should you talk about??
VaccinesYou're going to want to protect yourself from many different things. One thing I made sure I talked about was Gardasil, the HPV vaccine. It protects against human papillomavirus (HPV), passed on through sexual contact by people who have no idea they even have it, which leads to cervical cancer and genital warts. Gross. Gardasil is for women ages 9-26, and will protect you for a lifetime. Remember, 74% of HPV occurs in 15-24 year olds, and there are 6 million new cases of HPV in all age groups every year. That means that approximately 25 people at your school will get this some time in the next 12 months (according to my math, anyway). Hopefully, your doctor will offer this to you, but if he or she doesn't, be sure to mention it.
You should ask your doctor what other vaccines he or she might recommend. Based on where you live, your medical history, family background, etc., you may or may not need vaccines for certain things.
Your Menstrual Cycle and Body DevelopmentHave horrible cramps? Is your body just not developing like your friends? Haven't started your period yet? Bleeding in between periods? Getting hair in places you know should not be there? I promise, not only will your doctor understand what you're feeling, but he or she might actually be able to fix or at least explain just what the heck is going on! Just be open and honest. Your doctor isn't there to judge you, just to help you.
Relationships and SexIf you're sexually active or making the choice, and you can't talk to your parents about it, your doctor can definitely help. Not only will he or she give you advice, but you can obtain birth control and tips on how to be safe. Better yet, it is totally confidential. Let them know that you don't want your parents to know about anything, and by law (in most states) he or she cannot tell your parents. So don't be afraid!
If you are sexually active, your doctor will recommend a PAP smear and possibly a breast exam. Let me explain to you how this will work: the doctor will hand you a paper robe to wear and leave the room. You get undressed and put the robe on, lay down on the bed, and wait. No doubt your first time you'll be shaking (and possibly freezing cold). I know, it's probably kind of scary - it definitely was for me. Your doctor will come back in. First the doctor will pull down the front of your robe and feel around your breasts. He or she is looking for lumps or anything abnormal. Then the doctor will have you spread your legs. They'll take a metal object that looks something like pliers and insert it inside of you. This opens up the vagina and makes it easier to look at your cervix. Then they'll take what looks like a little brush on a stick, put it inside, and rub your cervix, and then it's done. That's it. Trust me, you'll live. It's scary for some, yes. But afterwards you realize that it wasn't so bad.
DepressionIf you've been feeling depressed or even suicidal, have been cutting, or feel like you have a drinking or drug problem, I urge you to talk with your doctor. Whether your problem is escalating or it's already gotten out of hand, your doctor can help. At first, you may regret telling them, but in the long run you'll be glad you did.
The problems above and those related to them are serious matters and shouldn't be taken lightly. Tell your doctor if you have a friend with one of these problems, or convince the friend to visit a doctor, or tell an adult you trust about their problem. I understand if some might think, "Oh, I don't want to be a snitch," or, "It's not that big of a problem," because I admit to saying both. But I regret saying those things and thinking those things. Don't make the same mistake.
Your health is very important. Make sure to make appointments for yearly physicals, and encourage all your friends to do the same. Make a list of things to talk to your doctor about. And remember: when it comes to your doctor, no topic is off limits.