Getting a gynecological exam (gyn exam) is one of the best things women can do, whether she’s straight, bisexual, lesbian, single, married, sexually active or not. A gyn exam provides a health overview for a woman, and it may include a breast exam, vaccinations, taking your medical history, tests for STDs and STIs, a pelvic exam, and a Pap test. A pelvic exam allows a doctor or nurse to check the position and size of your pelvic organs–the vagina, uterus, cervix, and ovaries. A Pap test is one of the best tools to find hidden, small tumors that may lead to cervical cancer.
Why Do Women Need a Pelvic Exam and Pap Test?
Doctors use the pelvic exam to find vaginal infections, STDs, the cause of abnormal uterine bleeding, ovarian cysts, uterine prolapse, before prescribing a birth control, and to collect evidence in cases of sexual assault. During a pelvic exam, you’ll take off your clothes below the waist, and place a cover the nurse gives you over your lower half. You’ll lie on your back with your feet raised and supported by stirrups.
A pelvic exam is more comfortable if you are relaxed. Taking deep breaths and chatting with the nurse or doctor help you relax. Try not to hold your breath, and relax your legs and hips as much as you can.
The exam often includes a Pap test, which is the best way to detect cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is very curable when found early. It’s simple, not painful, and usually takes only five minutes. Most health insurance plans cover Pap tests or cervical cancer screening at no cost to the patient.
A Pap test takes a sample of cells from a woman’s cervix or vagina. It’s not painful, but may be a little uncomfortable when the doctor uses a speculum to widen the opening of the vagina. A tiny spatula or brush is used to collect cells from the cervix. Cells collected from a woman’s cervix are spread on a microscope slide for examination. Test results come back in about a week.
When Should Women Get a Gynecological Exams?
All women should get a gyn exam when they are 21 years old or within three years after beginning sexual activity. After three consecutive tests that detect no abnormalities, routine screening is recommended every three years for women 21-29 years old. For women 30 to 65 years who have a normal pelvic exam and Pap test with a negative HPV test, screening can be done every five years.
Women with certain risk factors, such as being HIV positive, or who have had a history of abnormal Pap tests, should continue to have pelvic exams more frequently.
There are no risks associated with a gyn exam, pelvic exam or Pap test.
Why Would my Doctor Schedule a Repeat Pap Test?
Your doctor may schedule a repeat Pap test if not enough cells were collected during the test. Since decreased levels of the female hormone estrogen also can influence Pap test results, menopausal women may need to take estrogen before they repeat the test.
Although they are the best way to detect cervical cancer, Pap tests are not perfect. False results can be upsetting and confusing. An abnormal Pap test does not necessarily mean that cancer cells were found during the examination. Abnormal Pap test results could be caused by infection, inflammation, or changes connected to your menstrual cycle. Your doctor will evaluate the results to determine if further testing is necessary.
Do I Need to Get Gynecological Exams and Pap Tests if I Have Had a Hysterectomy?
Most doctors would recommend that you continue to have gyn exams and Pap tests after a total hysterectomy (removal of the uterus and cervix). Check with your doctor to determine if you still need Pap tests. Even women who no longer require Pap tests should see their doctor annually for gyn.
To schedule a gyn exam, which usually includes a pelvic exam and a Pap test, contact Creekside Center for Women at (479) 582-9268.
Information based on The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/-/media/For-Patients/faq085.pdf. Accessed 11/3/2015.
Related Blog Posts
Let’s start with the good news: Infant mortality has reached an all-time low. While this is cause for celebration, a recent analysis by the CDC found that mothers in the United States have a higher rate of dying after giving birth than many other developed countries....read more
What can you do to be ready for your little one? Take care of you! Before you even begin trying to conceive, you can take important steps to prepare your body and your life for a new baby. Planning for Pregnancy 1. Eat Right: Months before you begin eating for two,...read more
Fibroids are extremely common and affect more than 60% of women. However, even though it sounds a bit frightening that so many women have tumors in their uterus, fibroids rarely turn into cancer and having them doesn’t mean you’re more likely to get uterine cancer....read more
Mammograms are able to detect early signs of breast cancers, catching the cancer when it’s more treatable. Many doctors recommend that women begin mammograms at age 40 and have a mammogram every single year. According to the American College of Radiology, there’s a...read more
There’s no specific number of times you should be having sex. Yet if you feel like you're not enjoying sex, or you have noticed a decrease in how often you have sex, there may be underlying causes for a low libido. While you won't know for certain what the true issue...read more
Most women are aware they need regular exercise to strengthen their heart and lungs and tone their bodies. Yet some women resist training for strength because of some common myths. Let’s debunk some of these common falsehoods about strength training. Myth: I don’t...read more
The World Health Organization calls air pollution a "public health emergency." Outdoor air pollution is the cause of 3 million deaths a year. Indoor air pollution caused 6 million deaths in 2016. Air Pollution Can Damage Skin Even if you’re not living in a heavily...read more
When you wake up soaking wet after a night of restless sleep, it’s normal to feel confused and even worried. Night sweats are uncomfortable, to say the least. However, you’re not the only one struggling to understand what’s going on with your body. Over 40% of women...read more
“I’d been having seizures since I was in grade school and just never knew what they were,” Kevin says. “Before then everyone just thought I was daydreaming or not paying attention. I used to get notes home from the teachers saying, 'Kevin daydreams too much' or 'Kevin...read more
Domestic violence is sometimes called intimate partner violence. Intimate partner violence affects millions of women each year in the U.S. It includes physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, as well as sexual coercion and stalking by a current or former intimate...read more