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Cervical cancer screening and wellness exams should begin no later than age 21, but for those with special needs such as contraception, painful or heavy periods, sexual health, and screenings, they may begin sooner. Regardless of gender identity, a wellness exam is an essential part of preventive care. We deliver the latest services and technologies in the industry, serving the individual needs of every woman.

What to Expect During Your Annual Wellness Exam

An annual exam should not be intimidating despite its intimate and personal nature.  This is what to expect to make you feel at ease about your upcoming appointment.

Overall Health Assessment

The first part of the exam is an overall health assessment. A women’s healthcare specialist will check your vitals, including height, weight, and blood pressure and note any special topics you may wish to discuss with your provider.  Depending on the workflow of the office you may be asked to change into a gown and wait for your provider.   

After your women’s health provider arrives, they will ask a list of general health questions. These questions will typically be about your health history, family history, medications you are taking, menstrual history, contraceptive needs, sexual history and mental health.  Should you have any additional concerns, this is the time to voice them. This is a great time to bring up any physical and mental health concerns you might have.

After your history is completed, your provider will begin the examination.  If you are uncomfortable at any time during the exam, please express these feelings to your provider. Your provider can make any necessary adjustments so you may feel at ease. 

Pelvic Exam and Pap Test

At the age of 21, a well woman exam will include a pelvic exam and pap smear.  Screening for sexually transmitted infections is performed on patients 24 years and younger regardless of reported sexual activity based on CDC guidelines unless the patient specifically opts out.

The pelvic exam should be performed every year, however, the pap test and HPV testing may be performed at various intervals depending on your history and risk factors. The pelvic exam includes a visual assessment of your external and internal organs. The bimanual exam involves the placement of your provider’s fingers into your vagina, while pressing down on your abdomen with the other hand. This is usually painless, but you may feel pressure. If you require STI screening, please notify your provider before the exam as these specimens are obtained during your pelvic exam with a swab.

To begin the examination, you will be asked to lay on your back and place your feet into stirrups.  You will then move to the end of the table to make the exam easier The physical exam is broken down into four parts:

  • External: Your provider will examine your vulva and vaginal opening. They will check abnormalities such as irritation, genital warts, cysts, or abnormal discharge.
  • Speculum: To examine the cervix, your provider will use a speculum, a device that gently opens the vaginal walls to allow visualization of the cervix. If a pap smear is needed, the cervix will be sampled with two types of soft brushes to obtain cells from the surface of the cervix and the canal of the cervix.  This may cause an odd sensation or a minor cramp that should only last a few seconds.  If you desire STI screening, it can be done from the pap smear.  If you need additional testing for vaginal itching or discharge, the provider may use a swab to sample the vagina.
  • Bimanual Exam: This examination allows your provider to assess the uterus and ovaries.  To do this, your provider will insert one or two fingers into the vagina while the other hand is placed on the lower abdomen. Your provider will also look for potential signs of tenderness, pain, cysts, tumors, enlarged ovaries, and fallopian tubes.
  • Rectovaginal Exam: This specific exam isn’t always necessary, and can be discussed between you and your provider. During a rectovaginal exam, your provider will insert a gloved finger into your rectum to examine the health of the muscles and tissues between the vagina and rectum. They will check for tumors behind the uterus, on the lower vaginal wall, or in the rectum.

Breast Exam

Breast examinations may occur as early as your first wellness exam, but are routinely performed at age 25 and onwards.  This exam is painless and will include a visual inspection as well as palpation of the nipples, breasts, and armpits.  Your provider will also discuss how to perform self-breast examinations.

At age 40, you will begin to receive a referral for a mammogram.  The recommended interval for mammography varies based on different guidelines but is between 1-2 years for low-risk patients.  This specialized X-ray is an essential tool for the early detection of breast cancer and for locating abnormalities that may not be palpable.

Other Elements of the Annual Wellness Visit

Beyond the usual pelvic and breast exams, there are other things you can address during annual wellness visits.

Menopause and Midlife Counseling

Women’s healthcare includes more than just your reproductive years. Anyone experiencing perimenopausal symptoms over the age of 45 should speak to their provider about changes in their body. Your provider can help provide insights into lifestyle habits and therapies that will help manage perimenopause and menopause symptoms.

Sexual Health and Birth Control Counseling

If you are currently sexually active, it is essential to be open and honest with your provider. Your provider will help you find the best birth control and contraceptive options to fit your needs. Here, you can also receive counseling on safe sex practices and sexually transmitted infections and diseases.

Schedule Your Women’s Annual Exam with Capital Women’s Care

Take charge of your health by scheduling an annual wellness exam with your Capital Women’s Care provider today. We deliver exceptional patient satisfaction with an ongoing commitment to advanced care. We are devoted to women, 100% focused on you.