Annual Gynecological Exams are important for monitoring women’s health. They help clinicians detect and treat gynecological issues. These examinations are recommended for all women as soon as she becomes sexually active or once she reaches age 21. As the name suggests, a patient should schedule her annual gynecological exam once a year. Annual Examinations are generally covered by insurances. However, patients do need to contact their insurance carrier to see which services are covered and which are not as all insurances vary.
What can a patient expect during her the exam?
She should expect a full examination, which includes:
- Breast Exam
- Thyroid Exam
- Abdominal Exam
- Pelvic Exam
- Vaginal Exam
- Pap Smear (when due)
- Pelvic/trans-vaginal ultrasounds are also more often becoming a part of routine examination/care
- Providers will also review and assess healthy lifestyle habits, immunizations, cancer risk evaluation, cessation of certain social habits (smoking, illicit drug use, alcohol)
During the Pelvic Exam, the medical provider will palpate the pelvis to feel the size of the uterus, ovaries, and to rule out any tenderness or pain.
Patients should speak to their providers during their exam if they are experiencing any changes occurring in their lifestyle, habits or bodies. For example, they should mention if they are having any weight change, social changes, changes in their menstrual cycles, pain symptoms, or generally any changes that may be noted outside of their norm. This is important information that should be discussed during the Annual Exam.
If a patient is on her menstrual cycle, she can have her preventative care visit and assessment done. However, it is not recommended that she come for the annual exam if she is due to have a pap smear collected. If the patient is due to have her pap smear she should schedule to come on a time when she will not be bleeding so sufficient sample can be collected for evaluation. If a patient is due for a pap smear, it is also advised that she refrain from sexual intercourse 2 days prior to examination as the male ejaculate can mask any abnormal cells that would be collected during the pap smear. It is okay to have sexual intercourse after an exam.
In addition to the Annual Examination, it is a good idea to consider STD screening yearly for sexually active patients. Patients should also consider speaking to family members to obtain detailed health histories so that they may better screen themselves for the future to prevent illness.
By: Thafarie Thomas, WHNP