What to Expect During Your Annual Exam
A well woman exam begins like any other with evaluation of basic physical characteristics such as height, weight, blood pressure, and a urinalysis. You will also be asked questions about medications, allergies to medications, new medical problems, smoking and drinking habits, menstrual cycles, and for any other important information.
The Physical Exam
The physical exam begins after the patient changes into an examination gown. The patient’s breasts are examined for abnormalities and palpated for lumps or tenderness. There will also be an abdominal and pelvic exam during which the doctor examines the patient’s reproductive organs. The doctor palpates the abdomen in order to feel for abnormalities. There will also be a pelvic exam during which a speculum is inserted into the vagina in order to give the doctor a better internal view of the vaginal lining and the cervix. During this time a Pap smear will be performed. This test consists of a sampling of cells that are being shed from the cervix to screen for infections, pre-cancerous and cancerous changes and takes about 20-30 seconds. After the speculum is removed, an exam called a bimanual examination is performed. During this procedure, the doctor will insert one or two fingers into the vagina while palpating the lower abdomen with the other hand. This allows the doctor to detect changes to the vagina, cervix, uterus and/or ovaries.
Other Tests and Screenings
Other tests may be undertaken at this time depending on patient requests or insurance. A well woman exam can also include counseling for birth control, nutrition, or family planning. Additionally, screening can be undertaken for cholesterol/cardiovascular disease, sexually transmitted infections or mental health concerns. And, a number of vaccines and immunizations can be received at the office during the exam if indicated and desired. Also, mammograms are one of the more common procedures recommended after a well woman exam due to either the discovery of lumps in the breast or to screen for breast cancer. A mammogram is a procedure where breasts are examined with a very low dose x-ray in order to observe internal abnormalities. Finally, bone density screening tests may be ordered to screen for osteopenia and osteoporosis.
The results of the tests performed and ordered at the annual exam help the doctor advise the patient on proper care and interventions to improve her health.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Along with the physical exam, the annual exam is a time for patients to communicate with their doctors. We take a great deal of pride in listening to our patients’ concerns in order to formulate a plan of care that is easily understood and has a plan for improved health. Questions about menstrual cycles, sexual activity, physical health, and mental health are common topics of questions and we encourage our patients to ask these questions because we believe that good communication with our patients is extremely important. Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville takes pride in being a place where communication between doctors and patients makes annual well woman exams a comfortable and educational experience that optimizes women’s health.