Many women avoid annual well woman exams because of fear of the pelvic exam. We understand this concern, but emphasize that this exam is important because it can save your life. Perhaps most important, the annual well woman exam can detect early stages of cervical cancer. The only way to detect cervical cancer at this early stage is with the pelvic exam that is part of your annual well woman exam.
Exams Covered in the Well Woman Exam
Well woman exams are the first line of defense against diseases of the female reproductive system. Many women avoid the annual exam because they want to avoid the pelvic exam. We understand this concern, but we emphasize to our patients that the annual exam can save their lives.
Women’s Physical Exam
The physical exam is much like what your general practitioner does. But, many patients find it more convenient to do this during their well woman exam instead. Your gynecologist will review your medical history and ask about any current issues. They will check your vital signs, heartbeat, lungs, head, neck, abdomen, and reflexes. Sometimes they will ask for blood work to check your cholesterol, etc.
Breast exams help detect breast cancer signs early. Your gynecologist looks for lumps or irregularities in your breasts. They will also teach you how to perform a self-examination for between visits. Women between 20 and 39 should get an exam every one to three years. Those 40 and above should get a breast exam — along with a mammogram — every year.
Pelvic exams help detect early stage cancers, sexually transmitted diseases, and causes of inflammation. Your gynecologist examines the size and position of your ovaries, uterus, cervix, and vagina. Women 21 and over should get a yearly pelvic exam. Those under 21 should get one if experiencing menstrual disorder, vaginal discharge, or pelvic pain.
Pap Smear Test
Pap smear tests help us detect early forms of cervical cancer. Your gynecologist gently scrapes cells from your cervix during a pelvic exam. Women 21 and above — and those sexually active for over three years — should have this test done every other year.
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Your doctor needs to know all of your healthcare concerns to best care for you, and an annual exam is an ideal time to share issues, problems or concerns. If you haven’t had an annual