Annual Physical Exams
If you’ve never been to the gynecologist, not knowing what to expect might make you feel anxious about your first annual physical exam. But tending to your reproductive health is imperative in addition to the other services that we take care of during these exams, such as screening for cervical cancer and verifying that your body is developing as expected. So we want to address the concerns you may have about your annual physical exam.
So, what is a well-woman exam?“Well-woman exam” is another term you might commonly hear in reference to your annual physical exam and is a periodic visit to your gynecologist for an overview of your reproductive health and preventative care.
Pap SmearYou may have a pap smear performed. The frequency at which you should have cervical cancer screening and which tests you should have depends on your age and health history. The point of this procedure is to gather a sample of cells from your cervix to be tested for signs of cancerous or pre-cancerous cells.
How is a clinical breast exam performed?Your doctor may examine your breasts during routine checkups. This is called a clinical breast exam. The exam may be done while you are lying down or sitting up. The breasts are checked for any changes in size or shape, puckers, dimples, or redness of the skin. Your doctor may feel for changes in each breast and under each arm.
What is breast self-awareness?Breast self-awareness focuses on having a sense of what is normal for your breasts so that you can tell if there are changes – even small changes – and report them to your ob-gyn.
Why is breast self-awareness important?Breast cancer often is found by a woman herself. This happens in almost half of all cases of breast cancer in women aged 50 years and older. In women younger than 50 years, more than 70% of cases of breast cancer are found by the women themselves.
How to Prepare for an Annual Physical ExamWe want to make you feel comfortable and confident in your health and life. Here are steps you can take to prepare and relax for your appointment:
- Decide if you’ll feel more comfortable being seen by a male or female doctor prior to making your appointment.
- Make note of any special things you want to discuss with your gynecologist. These topics may include birth control; protection against STIs; changes in your period, vaginal discharge, or breasts; irregular pain or symptoms that come along with your period; or issues related to sex.