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 who are sexually active or after age 18 whichever comes first.
Most women need to see the doctor’s only once a year but if you have
a health problem or become ill, you should contact your doctor right away.
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.
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
The Pap Test
Your first gynecologic exam and Pap test, should occur by age 18 or earlier
if you are:
1) sexually active
2) having menstrual problems
such as pain or abnormal bleeding
3) having vaginal discharge
with a foul odor or vaginal irritation
to become pregnant
5) not having a menstrual period
but you have developed breasts and pubic hair
During the internal exam the Pap test will be performed. 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 18 or when you begin having sex. 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.