Healthy women are more productive and better able to handle the many challenges of life. That is why it is so important to get an annual physical examination and discuss women’s health issues with your primary care provider. Your doctor can also order screening tests for breast cancer, cervical cancer, and other diseases of the female reproductive system. Getting an annual exam will help you take control of your health and reduce your risk of developing chronic serious diseases.
Women’s Health Exams
If you get a well woman exam each year, it will be easier for your doctor to identify risk factors for disease or catch reproductive diseases in their early stages. Meeting with your primary care physician is also a good opportunity to ask questions about your health and get the information you need about menopause, contraception, and other topics of importance to women.
The first part of an annual examination is the medical history. This is especially important if you are a new patient, as it gives your healthcare provider a chance to get to know you and determine if you have any risk factors. You can expect questions like these during this portion of the exam:
- Do you smoke or use tobacco products?
- Do you exercise on a regular basis?
- Have you ever been pregnant, or do you plan to become pregnant?
- Have you had all of your immunizations?
- Do you take any medications?
- Do you use any herbal remedies or supplements?
This is a good time to ask your doctor about family planning, contraception, and related topics.
The physical exam gives your doctor an opportunity to see if you have any signs of disease, or if you have any risk factors for certain diseases. Someone will record your blood pressure and weight. Your doctor might also ask you to provide a urine or blood sample. During the physical examination, your doctor will check your heart, lungs, neck, eyes, ears, throat, nose, glands, and abdomen. If she notes a problem with any of your body systems, you may be referred to a specialist for additional tests.
Breast and Pelvic Exams
During a clinical breast exam, your doctor is looking for signs of breast disease. She will be looking for nipple inversion, breast dimpling, swelling, rashes, redness, or thickening. Your doctor will feel for any lumps or masses in your breasts, and check for any discharge from the nipples. This examination is performed while you are sitting up and while you are lying down so your doctor has the opportunity to evaluate all of your breast tissue. Your doctor may recommend a mammogram periodically to identify any masses in your breasts that could be malignant.
The pelvic exam is an examination of the inner and outer reproductive parts of the body. Your doctor will perform an examination of your labia, vulva, cervix, ovaries, and vagina, and may suggest a Pap smear during the exam. This test helps detect early changes in the cells of the cervix. These changes can indicate an increased risk for cervical cancer, so catching them early can help you avoid a serious medical problem. During the Pap smear, your doctor will gently scrape your cervix with a tiny brush. This should not cause any pain, but let her know if you experience any discomfort.
At Chapel Hill Primary Care, women’s health issues are one of our top priorities. Your annual exam will take place in a comfortable, judgment-free environment, and you will have plenty of time to discuss your concerns with a healthcare professional.