No one loves getting an annual gynecological exam but, the fact of the matter is, it’s one of the most important check-ups you can get, especially if you’re a woman over the age of 21. Gynecology exams can help alert you and your doctor of early warning signs of very serious issues, like cancer or sexually transmitted diseases.
When should you start getting an annual exam?
Many providers will advise that annual gynecology exams should start around the age of 15. A pelvic exam is not necessary when a patient is that young—unless there is already evidence of an issue—but it will give the patient the opportunity the ask important, valuable questions about their development and menstrual cycle.
Pap smears and pelvic exams will begin when a woman reaches the age of 21. Today, if a women is in good health and doesn’t receive any negative results with her pap smear, she can go three years without receiving another one. That doesn’t mean that she can skip her annual gynecology exam altogether, though. A pelvic exam is still essential to identifying any issues or areas of concern.
What should you expect during a gynecology exam?
To begin with, a comprehensive medical history will be taken, including a family history to understand possible cancer risks. Your gynecologist will especially be looking out for family history of breast cancer, ovarian cancer or cervical cancer.
From there, your provider will perform a physical examination to assess your blood pressure, height and weight. Then, your provider will move into a pelvic and breast exam.
During the pelvic exam, the doctor may do a pap smear. A pap smear is a process where your doctor will collect a small sample of cells from your cervix to check for cervical cancer or early evidence of HPV. During the pelvic exam, your doctor will also check your ovaries for any sign of cysts, swelling or other abnormalities. Because a pap smear doesn’t detect ovarian cancer, this step is important, even if it may be uncomfortable.
Next, your doctor will move into the breast exam. Even if you’re not at the appropriate age for a mammogram, a manual breast exam will help your doctor identify any lumps or areas of concert. If you’re not sure how to give yourself a self breast exam, this is a great opportunity to ask your provider questions.
Finally, your doctor will talk with you about birth control methods if you are sexually active, including ways to protect yourself against STDs. If you want to try to get pregnant, your doctor will advise you on preconception methods as well.
If you are postmenopausal, your doctor will talk with you about further screenings for osteoporosis, colon cancer and diabetes.
Schedule your gynecology exam
Our providers are understanding, compassionate and willing to answer any questions you may have about your reproductive health. To schedule a gynecology exam with us, contact us today. While walk-in appointments are available, we recommend scheduling your gynecology exam to ensure you’re paired with the right provider for you.