Annual Well Woman Exam
Annual Well Woman Exam
What to Expect During Your Well-Woman Exam
A well-woman exam is one of the most important steps that women of all ages can take to protect their health. This is an annual preventive screening of breast and gynecological diseases. During the visit, your provider will discuss your health and lifestyle behaviors and will perform a physical exam of your breast and pelvis.
Why is it important to have a well-woman exam?
The well-woman exam is important because women need screening for breast and gynecologic cancers and to discuss any preventive and sexually transmitted disease screening. It is also a good time for pre-pregnancy counseling.
How often should I have a well-woman exam?
A frequent concern of women is the PAP smear. It’s recommended that all young women get their first PAP smear and pelvic exam by age 21 or after their first sexual encounter, whichever comes first. You should also seek help regardless of sexual activity if you’re having gynecological issues. You should be getting yearly PAP smears until age 30; at 30, if you’ve had negative test results for three years and no history of Human Papillomavirus (HPV), you can reduce frequency of getting tested to every three years. After age 70, it’s unlikely that you need PAP smears, but you should still be conducting yearly pelvic exams.
What questions will I be asked during my well-woman exam?
During the well-woman exam, the provider may ask about the following:
- Alcohol consumption
- Sexual practices
- Menstrual cycles
What is checked for during the exam and what tests will be performed?
Your provider or physician assistant will conduct the following during the well-woman exam:
- Breast exam
- Pelvic exam – to check for uterine or ovarian abnormalities and screen for cervical cancer.
- Depending on age, a mammogram after 40 or bone density scan may be ordered after menopause.
- Depending on age, a Pap smear and possibly a test for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) may be ordered.
A mammogram is a common diagnostic test to screen for breast cancer. Regular mammograms are a key part of early diagnosis and treatment. If you’re 40 years or older, the American Cancer Society recommends a mammogram every year. Women who are 20 years and older should have a clinical breast exam at least every three years.
Who performs the well-woman exam and who will be in the room with me?
A provider or physician assistant can perform the exam. Customarily, only the provider and their nurse or medical assistant will be in the room.
Will I experience any pain during the exam?
Although some women experience a bit of discomfort during the pelvic exam, it should not be painful.
What happens during the clinical breast exam?
The breasts are inspected for changes in shape, skin texture and nipple discharge and lumps.
What happens during the gynecological exam?
The labia and vagina are inspected for appropriate estrogen effects, lesions or discharge. A speculum, a medical tool for investigating body cavities, is placed in the vagina to evaluate the upper vagina and cervix, and to perform a Pap smear. Cultures may also be obtained to screen for sexually transmitted diseases depending on age and other circumstances. An exam is then performed on the uterus and ovaries.
The well-woman exam is also an excellent time to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). When you schedule your appointment, ask to be tested for STDs! If this is your first well-woman exam, our clinicians are here to explain the exam to you every step of the way.
Schedule your well woman exam at SunMed today. Same or next-day appointment available