Having a yearly routine gynecology check-up is an excellent preventive health care measure. Many women visit their doctors only when they have a problem and fail to have a yearly check-up, risking their well being. In our experience, most problems and conditions are found through routine annual gynecology exams. 123
Every woman should be aware of the diseases and conditions that may affect her and should be able to recognize and observe their early symptoms. These conditions include breast, cervical and ovarian cancers, which can have obvious symptoms, as well as a number of infections, including sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Early detection increases chances of therapy, and especially for cancers, the chance of survival.
You can ask about (1) pregnancy (how to achieve it or avoid it), (2) your menstrual cycle and any particular symptoms that may concern you, even if they are mild or not occurring very often, (3) menopause symptoms, and (4) any other health issues.
Please remember, that your annual gynecological exam is designed to check your reproductive system’s health, provide guidance, prevent and promote good health habits to all women.
At a typical well-woman exam, your doctor will ask questions to complete a comprehensive medical history, including any family hereditary conditions and cancer risks. The physical, pelvic exam will consist of an internal check for the ovaries and uterus, a Pap test and a cervical culture.
Depending on your age, your doctor may also arrange for you to have a mammogram. Patients of all ages will be shown how to perform a monthly breast self-test at home. This practice has now saved the lives of many women, and it is very important that you are meticulous in checking your breasts regularly.
Your doctor will also ask you for your method of contraception, and depending on your age and personal questions, you may also receive advice on STDs and prevention methods.
In addition, your doctor will also talk to you about calcium intake, cholesterol screening, and the importance of well-balanced diet in combination with moderate exercise. If you are a smoker and need help for quitting, this would also be a good time to discuss it with your doctor.
If you are menopausal or post-menopausal age, your doctor will ask you to have additional tests for osteoporosis, colon cancer and diabetes.
Annual gynecological check-ups should start from the age of 16. Pelvic exams are not normally required at that age and appointments at this stage are intended to explain the development of the female reproductive system, the menstrual cycle, methods of birth control, STDs and prevention (for instance with a Human Papilloma-Virus (HPV) or a Hepatitis B vaccine).
After this first contact with a gynecologist, a yearly visit is highly recommended. Avoiding your routine gynecological check-up increases the risk of unintended pregnancy, pelvic infections, and potentially, it delays diagnosis of an unsuspected cancer or other condition.