Many women dread their annual well-woman checkup. But instead of viewing it as an inconvenience, think of it as an opportunity to improve your overall health. These appointments are a great time to ask questions, get important health screenings, and review such topics as contraceptive options and reproductive plans.
Women should begin getting an annual well-woman checkup when their menstrual cycles begin or shortly after. Most gynecologists begin seeing women at ages 16 to 18. For younger patients, these appointments are a great opportunity to ask questions and learn more about their menstrual cycle.
Before your checkup, it’s a good idea to prepare a list of questions and concerns so you don’t forget anything while you’re with your provider. It’s also helpful to bring a menstrual cycle calendar to your appointment. Your provider can review it to determine if your cycles are normal or if there are any interventions that need to be done.
When it’s time for your checkup, here’s what you should expect:
- Comprehensive health history gathering, including information about your family, personal health and menstrual cycle. Your family history is especially important as it can be used as a guide for recommending health screenings.
- Health screenings, including ones for breast, cervical, uterine and ovarian cancers. Your provider will determine which ones you need depending on your age and health history.
- Physical exam, including a breast and pelvic exam. A common misconception is that pelvic exams and Pap smears are the same thing. It’s important for patients to understand that Pap smears are a specific screening for cervical cancer. Although you only need a pap smear every three to five years, it’s recommended you receive a pelvic exam every year.
After your checkup, your provider will follow up with test results. If there are any concerns, a follow-up appointment will be scheduled.
Contact us with any questions about annual well-woman checkups.