A well-woman exam is an annual checkup for women who are sexually active and/or over the age of 18. Your well-woman exam is an opportunity to have health problems checked out, get screened for potential health problems, and set health goals. At Embry Women’s Health, board-certified health care providers use the well-woman exam as an opportunity to form bonds with their patients and encourage them to take matters of their own health seriously.
Why have a well-woman exam?
Numerous studies have shown that patients who have a primary care physician (PCP) tend to live longer, healthier lives. (For women, this PCP role is sometimes fulfilled by an OB/GYN or women’s health nurse practitioner. But, it’s best to always ask first if the provider can assume this role.) There are many reasons for the PCP/good health correlation. For one, if you regularly see a primary care provider, then you have the benefit of a physician who’s familiar with your health history, goals, and the progression of your particular health conditions. Also, your go-to provider can help coordinate more advanced care, referring you to specialists and surgeons when necessary. This saves time and money in the event of a serious illness. Lastly, when you do get sick, having a PCP makes the decision of who to go to an easy one.
What happens in a well-woman exam?
There are several components to a well-woman exam:
Your Well-Woman exam may begin with a conversation about your medical/health history. If this is your first visit with an OB/GYN, then this conversation is especially important, as it allows your healthcare provider an opportunity to get to know you and your special needs. All of the following topics may be up for discussion during this part of the exam: exercise, nutrition, sexual activity, menstrual cycles, use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs, and your family history with certain diseases. If your gynecologist neglects to bring up an issue you feel is important, then feel free to speak up. Your Well-Woman exam is your opportunity to get the education and treatment you deserve. It’s up to you to make the most of it!
A doctor or a nurse may perform your physical exam. In this part of the exam, the healthcare professional will measure your height and weight, calculate your body mass index (BMI), and check your blood pressure. Certain screenings, such as a breast exam and pelvic exam (discussed below), are routine for all women. Depending on your age, sexual activity, and other risk factors, your healthcare team at East Valley Women’s Medical Group may perform additional screenings, including:
- Screenings for certain types of cancer
- HPV testing
- HIV and STD testing
- High blood pressure
If you are at high-risk for a particular health condition, your provider may recommend additional screenings.
Every woman should have an annual clinical breast exam. During the exam, your provider will ask you to slowly raise the arms. The gynecologist will look for any abnormalities and use the pads of three fingers to feel for any lumps. This exam is then performed once more while you lie on your back. All women should perform a version of this test themselves (a “breast self-exam,” BSE) on a monthly basis. If you have any questions about how to do this, you should feel free to ask your gynecologist at East Valley Women’s Medical Group.
During a pelvic exam, your gynecologist examines the outer parts of your sexual organs, as well as the inner organs using a speculum. This annual exam is useful for detecting and diagnosing any abnormalities in the reproductive system. A Pap smear is another test that should be done as a part of your wellness exam. In this test, which screens for signs of cancer, a small spatula and brush are used to take sample cells from the cervix. The cells are then sent to a lab for testing. Though the test is not painful, you may find it a little uncomfortable.
Who should have a pap smear?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists provides the following pap smear recommendations:
- Women ages 21-29: pap test once every three years
- Women ages 30-65: pap test and HPV test once every five years (preferred). It is acceptable to have a Pap test alone (without HPV testing) every three years.
Once testing is complete, your gynecologist may ask you about your current health goals. Some of these goals – such as “quit smoking” and “lose weight” – you may have had since well before your appointment. Other goals may come to mind over the next few days or weeks as you process what you learned during your Well-Woman exam.
Whatever your health goals may be, your gynecologist at East Valley Women’s Medical Group is here to help you achieve them. If you would like to discuss a health issue that your gynecologist did not bring up during your Well-Woman exam, please feel free to do so. Well-Woman exams are available through East Valley Women’s Medical Group in Mesa, Tempe, and Gilbert, AZ.
Schedule a Well-Woman Exam in Gilbert, Tempe or Mesa, AZ
To schedule your well-woman exam with a board-certified OB/GYN in Gilbert, Tempe or Mesa, AZ, call East Valley Women’s Medical Group at 480-632-2004.