Why You Shouldn’t Skip Your Annual Well-Woman Exam
Going to the gynecologist is hardly anyone’s favorite activity. And if you have a long list of errands to run on a given week, it may be tempting to skip your annual well-woman exam. After all, buying groceries, taking the kids to soccer practice, and getting ready for that presentation at work are all more pressing items. However, there are several reasons why you should rethink putting an OB-GYN visit on the back burner.
What’s included in an annual well-woman exam?
A well-woman exam is a medical checkup to get an overview of your reproductive health. The doctor conducts three examinations: a pelvic exam, a pap smear, and a breast exam. In addition, your gynecologist will ask general questions about your overall wellbeing – family life, emotional wellbeing, and answer any questions about recent concerns you may have.
This is the portion of the test where the OB-GYN inserts a lubricated speculum into your vaginal canal to have a better view of your vulva, vagina, and cervix. She will look for signs of any abnormalities – including unusual discharge, cysts, irritation, or any visible indications of a sexually transmitted disease.
This is also the part of the examination where the doctor inserts gloved and lubricated fingers into your vagina while gently pressing on your lower abdomen with the other hand. This is done to analyze the size and position of your uterus, and to look for any indication of tenderness or tumors.
In addition to a pelvic exam, your doctor will use a cotton swab to gather cells from your cervix. These cells are then sent to a lab to verify whether they are healthy or whether they show any signs of precancerous activity.
Avoid having sexual intercourse with a man for 48 hours before your appointment, since semen may interfere with the samples as well as create an imbalance of good bacteria in your vagina. Wearing a condom won’t help since latex could also cause inflammation of your vaginal canal.
While you’re still laying down on the examination table, your gynecologist will also perform a breast examination. This is done by asking you to place one arm behind your head, while your doctor gently presses around your breast with small, circular motions to determine whether the tissue feels healthy or whether there are any cysts or lumps. They’ll then repeat the examination on your other breast following the same procedure. This step is crucial for early detection of breast cancer. That said, not all lumps end up being cancerous. In fact, many breast changes may be benign.
The Importance of Early Detection
An annual well-woman examination is crucial to preserve your health – especially if you’ve ever had an abnormal pap smear, a family history of cancer, a sexually transmitted disease, or any other concerns regarding your sexual and/or reproductive health. That’s because early detection — either of cervical or breast cancer — gives you a greater chance of healing and surviving the diagnosis. In fact, because a pap test can detect cell abnormalities before they turn into cancer, these type of exams could literally save your life.
There are a couple of exceptions where a woman could skip her annual well-woman examination. These include having had a hysterectomy or being older than 65 years of age. However, do not make this determination on your own. Talk to your doctor to discuss whether there are any reasons you should continue scheduling the appointments, or whether you should go every other year instead of annually.
Call OB-GYN Women’s Centre of Lakewood Ranch for More Information
At OB-GYN Women’s Centre of Lakewood Ranch, we provide a variety of services for every woman. No matter your age or medical history, we’ll help you feel comfortable and answer all of your reproductive health-related questions.
Call us today to schedule an appointment.