What is an Annual Gynecological Exam and Why Do I Need it?

annualexamwelcomeWhat is an annual gynecological exam and why do I need it?

An annual gynecological is a visit that allows the healthcare provider an opportunity to discuss women’s health issues, detect potential health problems, perform necessary tests and to assess risk factors for possible future issues that can develop.

At what age should annual visits to the gynecologist begin?

The Women’s Center of Orlando recommends young women between the ages of 13-15 should make an appointment for their first visit to the gynecologist. This visit generally does not include an actual pelvic exam unless the patient's medical/sexual history or current symptoms causes our healthcare provider to recommend it. For women age 21 or greater a pelvic exam will be part of the annual visit.

What can a patient expect during the annual exam?

During the annual visit a thorough medical history will be taken. The patient can also expect a physical exam including a full body exam, pelvic exam and a breast exam. During the pelvic exam the healthcare provider will utilize a speculum tool which makes it possible to visually inspect the internal walls of the vagina as well as the cervix.

During this portion of the annual visit a pap test can be collected along with additional tests, such as cultures for infections. Blood samples may also be drawn depending on the age of the patient,and the provider may suggest additional tests at that time.

What can a patient expect during the pelvic exam?

The pelvic exam will consist of three segments:

1. The visual inspection of the external genitalia

2. Speculum exam - This will allow the provider to visually inspect the inner walls of the vagina and the cervix, as well as collecting of specimens such as the pap test, cultures for sexually transmitted viruses, and cultures for vaginal infections.

3. Bimanual exam - The healthcare provider will insert one or two fingers vaginally while the palpating the pelvis from the top with the other hand. This allows the healthcare provider the ability to assess the internal pelvic area and to assess internal pelvic floor musculature.

How often should a patient have a pap test?

Most gynecologists recommend beginning pap test collections air the age of 21 and continuing collecting paps until between the ages of 65-75 years old. National guidelines say that pap tests are no longer recommended for each annual visit. It is now recommended that a pap test is performed every three years for women between the ages of 21-29, and a pap test and an HPV test for all women 30 years old and above every 5 years.

Should a patient schedule an annual visit on a year when they are NOT due for a pap test?

The answer is absolutely yes! Women tend to confuse the annual exam with the pap test and may think they are one in the same… they are not! The pap test is one element of the annual visit, so The Women’s Center highly recommends that women make an appointment for an annual visit and exam.