If you’re like most women, you’re probably not too excited when your annual checkup rolls around. While you may be tempted to skip this exam, before you cancel your appointment, you should remember that although it can be uncomfortable, annual exams play a critical role in protecting your health. The annual exam allows Dr. Alqulali to make sure your reproductive organs are healthy and helps her identify any conditions or concerns that may negatively impact your overall health.
What Happens During a Pelvic Exam?
During a pelvic exam, Dr. Alqulali will examine your outer genitalia and look at your vagina with the help of a speculum to make sure there is no evidence of infection or disease. The examination also usually includes feeling your uterus and ovaries to make sure there are no cysts, tumors or other abnormalities.
Most pelvic exams include a Pap smear test that collects a small number of cells from your cervix. This test helps to identify diseases like cervical cancer and human papillomavirus (HPV).
Other parts of your annual checkup will include an overview of your health, overall health history and discussion of any concerns you may have about your health.
Is a Pelvic Exam Necessary Every Year?
This question has been a hot topic in women's health care for the last few years. The American College of Physicians says that healthy women without a family history of cancer or other conditions, who are not pregnant and who do not have a pre-existing condition do not need to have a pelvic exam every year.
Despite the ACP’s viewpoint, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Dr. Alqulali still suggest that women should have a pelvic exam and checkup every year.
While the AACOG and Dr. Alqulali advise that you should have an annual pelvic exam, some women may choose to forego their annual Pap test, but the recommendation is that women should not go more than three years without this test. Women with pre-existing conditions or a family history of cancer or other medical conditions should have an annual pelvic exam and Pap smear test.
Additionally, women with symptoms like vaginal discomfort or pain or other uncomfortable or unusual symptoms should schedule an appointment for a pelvic exam as soon as possible.