Annual Exams

Routine gynecologic exams are important to a woman’s total health and well-being.  Problems involving the reproductive system may arise at any time and the healthy condition of these organs is essential to successful pregnancy and childbirth, sexual satisfaction, fertility, and the health of future infants.

Why do you need an Annual Exam?

By performing exams on an annual basis many common problems can be detected by your doctor and treated successfully.  This is especially true with cancer of the cervix.

The Pap test, which detects abnormalities of the cervix, should be done annually on women 21 years of age and older.

Most women need to see their doctor’s only once a year but if you have a health problem or become ill, you should contact your doctor right away.

Health History

At your first visit you will be asked for your personal history.  This provides your doctor with information specifically about you as well as information on diseases that may be inherited from your parents to you or from you to future children.  It is important to give answers that are complete and honest.  Keep in mind that this information is strictly confidential.

Physical Exam

The physical exam by your doctor involves your entire body, including your reproductive organs.  It will begin with checking your weight, nutritional status, and blood pressure.  A person may have high blood pressure and still feel fine and have no symptoms.

An examination of the chest and abdomen will also be performed.  During the exam, your doctor will check your breasts for signs of cysts or lumps.  This is done in addition to the monthly self breast exam that you should be performing at home.

The Pap Test

Your first gynecologic exam and Pap test, should occur at age 21 or earlier if you are:

1)         having menstrual problems such as pain or abnormal bleeding
2)         having vaginal discharge with a foul odor or vaginal irritation
3)         planning to become pregnant
4)         not having a menstrual period but you have developed breasts and pubic hair

During the internal exam, a Pap test will be performed if you are age 21 or older.  In this test, a few cells are taken from the cervix and vagina with a swab.  This is not painful.  The cells will be examined in a lab for early signs of abnormal cells or precancerous cells.  Although abnormal cells may be found on the cervix it may take up to 10 years before cancer actually develops.  Often these abnormal cells may be treated and cured in this early stage with appropriate follow up.  A Pap test can detect cancer when it is in its early stage, before it invades deeper tissues.  At this early stage, there is a greater chance that the cancer can be treated with success.

A Pap test done on an annual basis is a key part of your overall reproductive health care and should be performed even in women who have had a hysterectomy. (removal of uterus and cervix).

Women’s Health Specialists recommends that your first pap test be done at age 21.  If any of the pap tests show abnormal cells, your doctor may advise that you have a pap test done more than once a year.  Other lab tests, along with the Pap test are also part of the annual gynecologic exam.  These may include urine,  as well as special radiological tests such as x-rays, mammograms and bone density testing.

After taking your history and doing a physical exam your doctor will discuss results with you and answer any questions you may have.  If the lab tests that have been ordered show anything abnormal you will be notified.