An annual well-woman exam is one of the most important steps that women of all ages can take to protect their health. Find out what a basic well-woman exam includes.
What is a well-woman exam?
A well-woman exam is an annual preventive screening of breast and gynecological diseases. During the visit, your doctor will discuss your health and lifestyle behaviors and will perform a physical exam of your breast and pelvis.
Why is it important to have a well-woman exam?
The well-woman exam is important because women need screening for breast and gynecologic cancers and to discuss any preventive and sexually transmitted disease screening. It is also a good time for pre-pregnancy counseling.
How often should I have a well-woman exam?
Starting at age 21, well-woman exams should be performed yearly. It is recommended that the first visit occur in the mid- to late-teens.
What questions will I be asked during my well-woman exam?
- During the well-woman exam, the doctor will ask the following:
- Alcohol consumption
- Sexual practices
- Menstrual cycles
What is checked for during the exam and what tests will be performed?
Your doctor will conduct the following during the well-woman exam:
- Breast exam.
- Pelvic exam – to check for uterine or ovarian abnormalities and screen for cervical cancer.
- Depending on age, a mammogram or bone density scan may be ordered.
- Depending on age, a Pap smear and possibly a test for the human Papilloma virus (HPV) may be ordered.
Who performs the well-woman exam and who will be in the room with me?
An OB/GYN doctor or primary care physician can perform the exam. Customarily, only the doctor and their nurse or medical assistant will be in the room.
Will I experience any pain during the exam?
Although some women experience some discomfort during the pelvic exam, it should not be painful.
What happens during the clinical breast exam?
The breasts are inspected for changes in shape, skin texture and nipple discharge and lumps.
What happens during the gynecological exam?
The labia and vagina are inspected for appropriate estrogen effects, lesions or discharge. A speculum, a medical tool for investigating body cavities, is placed in the vagina to evaluate the upper vagina and cervix and to perform a Pap smear.
Cultures may also be obtained to screen for sexually transmitted diseases depending on age and other circumstances. An exam is then performed to examine the uterus and ovaries.