When should a young woman first see a gynecologist?

GHP-0643A gynecologic exam can be stressful at any age, but especially when it is your first appointment.

As a woman and a health care provider for 25 years, I strive to make women of all ages comfortable as they take the steps necessary to be proactive about their health.

Why see a gynecologist?

A gynecologic exam is an important part of health care. Typically, young women first visit the gynecologist at 18, with exams starting at age 21. The gynecologists at Baptist Health Women’s Choice Blair Tolar, MD, and Amber Savells, MD – as well as my myself see girls as young as 13 for issues such as painful menstrual periods or abdominal pain.

The visit usually includes a health screening and a physical examination. We can discuss the benefits of the cervical cancer vaccine and the prevention of sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy.

Preventive care

As women age, they will need to schedule regular preventive health visits with a gynecologist. Conducted during a pelvic examination, a pap smear test to check for cancer is recommended annually, beginning at 21.
We also encourage patients to do regular self-breast exams starting at a young age. Some young women have lumps in their breast, but you need to be aware of your body in case they change or you feel pain.
In addition, we can discuss contraception, fertility and family planning, as well as other health concerns. It is important for you to feel comfortable with discussing every detail of your health with your physicians and their staff.

Talk to our nurses

If you have any question about your health, ask our nurses at Baptist Health Line 24 hours a day at 270.575.2918.

– Tammy Carr, APRN, Baptist Health Women’s Choice


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Baptist Health Prime Care: One-stop shop for summer health care

Dr. William ConyerBites, burns or physicals – we can help with all your summer time health needs at Baptist Health Prime Care.

Experienced mid-level providers and family medicine physicians (David Saxon, MD, and I) provide walk-in care without appointments at Baptist Health Prime Care when illnesses and non-life threatening emergencies pop up.

Tick and other insect bites

We’ve treated many people in recent weeks concerned about tick bites and prevention.

The most common are wood or dog ticks — brown or black, some with a white spot — that can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever. See us if a bull’s eye rash and flu-like symptoms or fever develop within two to four weeks; but first you should remove the insect. Apply a cotton ball with dishwashing liquid for several minutes until the tick detaches. If not, pull the tick straight out with tweezers or your fingers. Wash with an antibacterial soap, and apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment one time.

Lyme disease is transmitted by deer ticks, tiny brown ticks that are almost impossible to pick off. Remove these by scraping off with a fingernail or anything with a smooth edge. Mark your calendar, and see us or your doctor if a rash or flu-like symptoms develop within 30 days.

Bees and wasps also can cause problems if they trigger an allergic reaction. A severe reaction may cause hives, rapid pulse, difficulty breathing and swelling of the face, throat or mouth. Severe reactions are not common, but they are serious. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Poison ivy

If you get exposed to poison ivy or oak, wash your skin with soap and water or rubbing alcohol. You have about 10 minutes to wash the oil off your skin to avoid a rash. Also, scrub under your nails to avoid spreading poison ivy to other parts of the body.

Use a cold compress to relieve itching or try calamine lotion, an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or antihistamine. Call your doctor if the rash is near your eyes or covers a large part of your body.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke

As temperatures rise, so can the chances for heat exhaustion when people work or exercise in a hot, humid environment. Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, a life-threatening condition that can cause brain damage or damage to internal organs.

Seek medical help for heat exhaustion if the person is confused or unable to keep fluids down. Call 911 immediately if you suspect someone has suffered a heat stroke.

Sports physicals

Baptist Health Prime Care also can provide all physicals for your child’s sports teams or school requirements without appointments.

We’re open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays with designated parking on the main campus of Baptist Health Paducah, 2501 Kentucky Ave. Phone: 270.415.4860.

– William Conyer, MD, family practice physician

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Spokes for Strokes bike ride aims to improve stroke care

Ashburn050As a neurologist, I moved back to Paducah three years ago knowing I could improve stroke care in my hometown. Fortunately, I’ve been able to use my hobby – cycling – to do the same in the annual Spokes for Strokes bike ride hosted by Baptist Health Paducah. Community members can fight stroke, too, whether they’re avid cyclists or haven’t been on a bicycle in years, by registering for the ride.

Spokes for Strokes

The hospital will host its third Spokes for Strokes bike tour this Saturday, June 7, to raise stroke awareness, along with funds for life-saving technologies and expanded stroke care services.

It will begin at 7 a.m. with registration at Baptist Health Imaging on the west end of campus at 2705 Kentucky Ave., followed by the tour at 8 a.m. Registration at active.com is $25 for an individual, $40 for couples and $50 for a family of four.

4 cyclistsThe bike tour offers 10-, 35- or 65-mile rides through southern McCracken, Marshall and Graves counties. The longest ride includes challenging hills and four rest stops. The 35-mile ride is less hilly with four rest stops. The short ride is completely flat and stays in McCracken County. It includes one rest stop. All rides will be followed by support vehicles. Helmets are required.

Stroke education

Why is stroke education so important? Stroke is the one of the nation’s leading killers and the leading cause of serious, long-term disability. Baptist is Kentucky’s only certified stroke center west of Owensboro and a recent recipient of The Get With the Guidelines®–Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award for commitment and success in meeting national guidelines for stroke care.

We focus on public education, so people of all ages know to call 9-1-1 immediately if they see anyone experiencing signs of a stroke. Time saved is brain saved, so if they seek immediate treatment, the effects of stroke may be reduced or even reversed.

To determine if symptoms indicate a stroke, keep F.A.S.T. in mind:

F=Face   Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

A=Arm   Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S=Speech   Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech slurred or strange?

T=Time   If you observe any of these signs, phone 9-1-1 because ambulance staff can expedite treatment.

If you have any questions about stroke symptoms, talk to a Baptist nurse any time at the Chest Pain & Stroke Hotline: 1.800.575.1911.

– Neurologist Joseph Ashburn, MD

Medical director of Baptist Health Paducah stroke center

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New prostate cancer drugs may delay chemotherapy

GHP-3857One in every six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime. According to the American Cancer Society, it is the most common cancer diagnosed in men besides skin cancer.

A physical exam and a blood test to establish a baseline PSA (prostate-specific antigen) score help decrease prostate cancer mortality by 44 percent.

The test is important because prostate cancer may not cause symptoms in early stages. More advanced prostate cancer may cause trouble urinating, blood in urine, swelling in your legs and discomfort in the pelvic area.

When cancer is detected, treatment often includes the surgical removal of the prostate, followed by radiation therapy andhormone treatments to reduce blood levels of testosterone, the hormone that fuels the cancer’s growth.

However, most prostate cancer will eventually become resistant to hormone treatments. Once this happens, the next line of treatment has typically been chemotherapy.

New medications for prostate cancer

The good news is two new pills have been approved for people who have become resistant to hormone treatments, instead of having to start chemotherapy.

Both medications – Zytiga (abiraterone) and Xtaudi (enzalutamide) – are designed to inhibit the production of androgen in the testes, adrenal glands and prostate cancer tumors themselves. Androgens are male hormones that attach to and activate androgen receptors, which may result in the cancer cells dividing and growing.

A recent study by the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health and Science University found the drug enzalutamide increased survival by 29 percent and delayed disease progression by 81 percent in men who hadn’t received chemotherapy treatments.

These new drugs help men with prostate cancer maintain a higher quality of life.

Baptist Health Line available 24/7

If you have questions about prostate cancer, phone Baptist Health Line at 270.575.2918.

–        Oncologist Charles Winker, MD, FACP

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Heart disease affects one in 4; could you be one of them?

Dr. McElroyYou may realize you should lose a few pounds, quit smoking, exercise more or stop eating so many sweets. But did you know those lifestyle choices put you at real risk for heart disease? And that’s serious business because heart disease is the nation’s leading killer.

Even though heart disease affects 26.6 million Americans, those lives could be improved dramatically if we’d change our habits.

Coronary heart disease occurs when blood vessels to the heart muscle do not function normally. The risk for heart disease can increase when heredity is combined with unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking cigarettes and eating a poor diet. Other risk factors include physical inactivity, obesity, excessive alcohol use, high blood pressure and cholesterol and diabetes.

We can’t change our family history but we can eat healthier, exercise and make good lifestyle choices. Commit to make the following six steps to reform your health:

Weight control

Obesity is on the rise, and so are weight-related health problems. Achieve a healthy weight and maintain it. Additional health risks associated with weight gain include stroke, diabetes and even some cancers.

Exercise daily

Try to exercise 60 minutes every day or walk at least 10,000 steps a day. Walking is easy and inexpensive. All it requires is a pair of shoes and a place to go.

Quit smoking

Smoking is dangerous to your health. A recent report in the American Heart Journal said people smoking three or fewer cigarettes a day had about a 65 percent higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease than those smoking none. Two-thirds of smokers have tobacco-related diseases.

Limit alcohol

Drink no more than the equivalent of one glass of wine a day.

Eat right

Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Control portion size and focus on fruit and vegetables. The Mediterranean style diet is best.

Heart attack symptoms

If you experience heart attack symptoms, you should call 911. They can begin slowly with mild pain or be sudden or intense. Other symptoms include:

  • Any chest pain (crushing or pressure) lasting 15 minutes or longer
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Sweating

Baptist Health Paducah was recently named a Cycle IV Chest Pain Center with percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) designation by the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care. The hospital was the region’s first accredited chest pain center in 2008 and has continued to meet high standards for re-accreditation twice since then.

Local chest pain hotline: 1-800-575-1911

For help identifying signs and symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, phone our Chest Pain and Stroke Hotline at 1-800-575-1911 to speak with a local registered nurse.

–        Cardiologist Bradley McElroy, MD

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Minimally invasive surgery provides options for women

Blair TolarAre you a woman living with pelvic pain because you don’t want to face surgery?

The first step is to make an appointment with your doctor to determine the cause of your pain.

March is National Endometriosis Awareness Month. It is estimated 10 to 20 percent of reproductive-age women in the U.S. suffer from the condition, when the lining of the uterus grows outside the uterus. A gynecologist can determine if your chronic pelvic pain is caused by endometriosis.

Other conditions, ranging from incontinence to cancer, may require surgical treatment; but many gynecological procedures no longer require a large abdominal incision or long hospital stays.

Baptist Health Paducah offers several minimally invasive gynecology surgery options for procedures, ranging from pelvic organ prolapse repair to hysterectomy.

Prolapse repair

Pelvic organ prolapse happens to about one-third of all women. It refers to the drooping of pelvic organs, including the bladder, uterus and vagina. Common causes include pregnancy and childbirth, obesity, respiratory problems with a chronic cough and hysterectomy.

Robotic surgery can repair pelvic organ prolapse, using soft synthetic mesh to support pelvic organs that have slipped out of their normal positions. The minimally invasive surgery generally takes only one to two hours. Another minimally invasive option for pelvic organ prolapse is done vaginally. During this surgery, the top of the vagina is attached to the lower abdominal wall, the lower back or pelvis ligaments.  

Incontinence repair

Women experience incontinence – the accidental release of urine – twice as often as men. It can be caused by childbirth, weight gain or other conditions that stretch the pelvic muscles, and can occur from sneezing, laughing and coughing. Surgery is often the best treatment.

Outpatient procedures for incontinence include a “sling” procedure with a small incision in the vagina and two smaller ones in the lower pelvic area. The procedure involves placing a sling around the urethra to lift it back into a normal position.


Hysterectomy, the removal of the uterus, may be necessary to treat a variety of conditions, including non-cancerous and cancerous tumors.

Baptist Health Paducah became the first hospital in the region to implement the da Vinci Surgical System for hysterectomies, ovarian cysts and other abdominal problems.

Robotic surgery, a type of laparoscopic hysterectomy, offers a smaller incision, less scarring and quicker recovery. This allows patients to get back to work much quicker than the traditional abdominal hysterectomy. They often return to work in two weeks, while recovery time for a traditional hysterectomy is normally six weeks.

Talk to our nurses

For regular updates about women’s Health, be sure to follow Baptist Health Women’s Choice on Facebook.  If you have a question about different surgical options, ask our nurses at Baptist Health Line 24 hours a day at 270.575.2918.

– Blair Tolar, MD, obstetrician/gynecologist

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Colon cancer is preventable

GHP-3849What if you could prevent cancer? The good news is colon cancer may be prevented or cured if detected early with regular screenings.

The bad news is many people don’t take advantage of life-saving screenings.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the nation, with the mortality rate in Kentucky among the highest, killing nearly 900 people each year. Colon cancer rates in our region are higher than the national average.

Are you at risk?

People with colon polyps or early-stage colon cancer often have no symptoms. For that reason, the American Cancer Society recommends that adults 50 and older should be screened with colonoscopy. Screenings should start at 40 if you have a family history of colon cancer or polyps.

A colonoscopy is a procedure that allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your colon. It helps find colon polyps, tumors and areas of inflammation or bleeding. During a colonoscopy, tissue samples can be collected and abnormal growths can be taken out.

Risk factors associated with colon cancer include family history, diet low in vegetables, excessive alcohol use, tobacco use, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Colon cancer symptoms include rectal bleeding, change in bowel frequency or stool size, unexplained anemia or weight loss, fatigue, persistent abdominal pain and frequent vomiting.

The Incredible Colon

You have the unique opportunity to see what a healthy colon looks like, and how polyps and cancer form, during The Incredible Colon community exhibit 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, March 26, in the atrium of Doctors Office Building 2 at Baptist Health Paducah.

The Incredible Colon is a 20-foot inflatable, interactive and educational exhibit that provides visitors with an opportunity to learn about colon cancer, including risks, prevention, early detection and treatment. Free screening kits will be available for the first 200 visitors assessed to have high risk for colon cancer.

If you have questions about colon cancer or colonoscopy, phone Baptist Health Line at 270.575.2918.

–        Oncologist Charles Winker, MD

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