Annual Check-Up / Yearly Exam
Women often feel anxious or uncomfortable at the annual check-up, especially if this is your first. It can be helpful to plan ahead for your first well woman exam. This will help you feel comfortable and prepared.
Why have an annual exam or “Well Woman Exam”?
Although it is normal to feel anxious about your first well woman exam, it is important to not delay scheduling your appointment. When you become sexually active, or turn 21, you should schedule your first well woman exam. If you have any irregular menstrual cycles or pain in the pelvis, it is a good idea to schedule an exam.
A well woman exam can detect early signs of cervical cancer and is the best way to protect your reproductive system from other diseases. It is important to schedule your annual exam on time.
In your 20s and 30s
- The HPV vaccine may be given
- Checks on blood pressure, your BMI and how to maintain a healthy weight
- Overall health habits
- Discussion of reproductive plans
- Flu shot
- Pap smear to screen for cervical cancer
In your 40s
- Mammograms will begin including armpits every one to two years
- Pap smear every 3 years
- Check for high cholesterol
- Discussion or perimenopause and what changes to expect
- Flu shot
In your 50s
- Still need regular exams after menopause, but may not need a Pap smear
- Flu shot
- Shingles shot
- The average age for menopause to begin is 51.
In your 60s and beyond
- Pap smears every 5 years if there have been no previous issues.
- Effects of natural aging and possible hormone replacement therapy
- Bone density testing for osteoporosis
What to Expect during Your First Well Woman Examination
A well woman exam is just like any other appointment. The paperwork will ask you questions about your family, medications, general demographics, your menstrual cycle and whether you have been pregnant in the past. Your height, weight, blood pressure, and other pertinent information will be taken by a nurse. The nurse will give you a dressing gown, and then leave the room for you to change. The well woman exam consists of four parts: the physical, breast, pelvic, and Pap test.
A physical exam is similar to what your doctor would perform during an annual exam. However, it may be easier to have your physical done simultaneously with your well woman exam. Your medical history will be reviewed by your gynecologist and any issues or concerns will be addressed. Your vital signs, heartbeat and lungs will be checked. Sometimes, they may ask for bloodwork or a sample of your urine.
Early signs of breast cancer can be detected by having a breast exam. Your gynecologist will examine your breasts for any lumps or other irregularities. You will be taught how to do a self-examination once a month.
The much-dreaded pelvic examination is used to detect early stages of cancer and sexually transmitted diseases as well as any other causes of inflammation. Your doctor will ask that you lie down on your back with your legs elevated and your feet flat on the ground during the pelvic exam. Your gynecologist will inspect your vagina to check for any redness, irritation, discharge or other signs. Next, your gynecologist will inspect the size and location of your ovaries and uterus. The cervix and vagina are examined by placing one hand in the vagina and the other pressing down on the abdomen from the outside. A pelvic exam should be done once a year for women aged 21 or older. You should have a pelvic examination if you have menstrual irregularities, vaginal bleeding, or pain in the pelvis.
An Pap test can detect cervical cancer early. While the speculum remains in place, your gynecologist will gently remove a sample of tissue from your cervix using a small spatula or brush. Although a Pap smear should not be painful, you may feel a slight pinching sensation. A Pap smear should be done every two years if you are over 21 and sexually active.
Book Your First Well Woman Exam
Many women are anxious about their annual well woman exams, especially if this is your first. Our experts aim to make your first well woman exam as easy and comfortable as possible, in order to detect any concerns and irregularities as soon as possible. Call us today to schedule your annual check-up.