How Often Do You Need A Pelvic Exam?

It used to be that doctors recommended a woman see her gynecologist annually for a Pap smear and pelvic exam, but those guidelines have changed in recent years. Here's what you should know.

What Is Done During A Pelvic Exam?

When you go to the gynecologist for a pelvic exam, the doctor is looking for any physical signs of abnormalities, both internally and externally. They will palpate your pelvic and abdominal region, checking for tenderness and abnormal organ size or position.

They will inspect the vulva for any signs of disease. They will then use a speculum to open the walls of the vagina. Using a swab, they will take a sample from in and around the cervix. This is the Pap smear. It is a test that looks for cellular changes and signs of cervical cancer. It may be combined with a test for the human papillomavirus (HPV), which often occurs in conjunction with cervical changes. This test is important as cellular changes can be discovered in a pre-cancerous state, which can help you avoid cancer in the future.

Lastly, the doctor may perform a breast exam. They will check for any visible signs of abnormality, such as skin puckering, as well as manually feel for any physical lumps. They may also check the nipples for any discharge. Other tests may be done depending on your personal health history, family history, and as determined by your physician.

How Often Does A Pelvic Exam Need To Be Done?

Most women have their first pelvic exam when they are teenagers, either because of medical issues, or more commonly, because they are sexually active and are seeking a birth control method. A woman should have her first pelvic exam by the age of 21, even if she is not yet sexually active.

A woman who is aged 21 to 65 who hasn't had an abnormal Pap smear and isn't having any other problems needs to be seen only every three years now. If an abnormal Pap smear has come back, your doctor will likely want to see you annually until it is normal again. Keep in mind, depending on your age, you may still need an annual or biannual mammogram, however.

Can You Ever Stop Having Pelvic Exams?

If you have had a total hysterectomy or are over the age of 65, you may opt to quit having pelvic exams. They can still be useful, though, and they can also provide a woman with peace of mind. Discuss this with your gynecologist; your doctor may recommend you switch to having an exam every five years.

For more information, contact a company like Naples  Ob-Gyn today.