Your annual gynecologic exam is an important part of your overall health. We typically recommend that annual exams begin between the ages of 16 and 21 years.
Your doctor will assess your overall health as well as check your reproductive system each year. Establishing your gynecologic care early on is important so that we can establish a benchmark from which we can assess and screen for any changes and/or abnormalities that may need to be followed or treated.
What You Can Expect at Your Annual Exam
For most women, the annual GYN exam is not high on their list of favorite things to do. We understand how you feel and strive to ensure your utmost comfort. As physicians, we also understand that an annual GYN exam has saved lives and is one of the most important things you can do for your health. It’s also a great time to ask your doctor questions and talk candidly about any concerns or unusual symptoms you may be experiencing.
The annual exam consists of:
- Your personal history – One of our nurses, medical assistants and/or your doctor will ask you questions about your personal and family medical history.
- A breast exam – Your doctor will palpate your breasts, feeling for any abnormalities such as lumps or nipple discharge. Your doctor will also recommend that you perform self-breast exams regularly to get to know your body and to notice any changes in your breasts that should be brought to your doctor’s attention.
- Pelvic exam and Pap smear – Your doctor will insert a small cotton swab to collect cervical fluid to test for certain sexually transmitted infections and then give a Pap smear, where a small brush-like instrument collects cells from the cervix to screen for cervical cancer cells and the presence of the HPV infection. This part of the exam typically takes from five to 10 minutes.
*A Note about Pap Smears – The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that women begin Pap smears at age 21. Women between the ages of 21-29 should get a Pap smear every three years, and then every three to five years after age 30. Screening will be more frequent for women with abnormal Pap smears.