An annual physical exam, or “well-woman exam”, with your gynecologist is strongly encouraged in all females age 21-29 who are sexually active. Women aged 30-64 should visit their gynecologist every other year. Annual physical exams are fairly quick and virtually painless, yet can be lifesaving in some circumstances.
During an annual physical exam, the gynecologist will ask general questions about the patient’s sexual history and menstrual cycle. Following these questions, the physician will then physically examine the patient’s breasts and pelvic region. If he or she notes any abnormalities, the physician may inquire further or request laboratory testing.
There are a few steps that patients can take to ensure an easy, thorough annual physical exam.
- First, attempting to schedule your appointment between menstrual periods will make your exam more productive; menstrual fluids can interfere with lab test results as well as the physical portion of the exam.
- If there are any questions that you already have for your gynecologist prior to the appointment, it is beneficial to write a list. This way, you will remember questions from before the exam, and you can add to the list as the exam progresses.
- Try to remember the date and duration of your last period. This will help your gynecologist better understand your body’s natural cycle.
An annual physical exam can detect potential irregularities and even uncover troubles lurking below the surface. It is extremely important to tell your gynecologist about any irregular bleeding, discharge, odor, or pain, as these may be signs of infection, pregnancy, or even early-stage cancer.