An annual well woman exam is a thorough physical exam that includes a breast exam and pelvic exam. The pelvic exam typically includes a pap smear and palpation of the uterus and ovaries to rule out or assess uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts and determine if the reproductive organs are healthy.
For women over 5o years of age, the annual exam changes slightly as it includes a rectal exam to rule out any colon changes that may need further evaluation.
If you have had a hysterectomy, a pap smear of the vaginal canal is still recommended to ensure all cervical cells were removed and no abnormal cells are present. Many women still have their ovaries and those need to be regularly checked also.
A referral for breast imaging can be made for both screening imaging (most imaging centers do not require a referral for screenings of women over 40 year of age) or a diagnostic work-up (if a lump or suspicious area is found on the breast).
Blood work is also recommended on a regular basis and can be completed at your annual well woman exam in office.
The American Cancer Society has adjusted their screening recommendations for cervical cancer (Pap tests) recently, spreading out the time between exams. Being committed to prevention and having protocols in place to deal with early changes in cervical health, Flow Natural Health Care has slightly different recommendations to ensure the prevention of cervical cancer and optimal health. In short:
- All women should begin cervical cancer screening at age 21 or when they become sexually active.
- Women between the ages of 21 and 29 years old do not need routine HPV testing unless their Pap test comes back abnormal. The American Cancer Society recommends screening every 3 years. At Flow Natural Health Care, we recommend every 1-2 years based on your history and risks. This can be discussed at your visit.
- Women 30 years of age and older should routinely get screened for HPV as part of their Pap test.
- Women who have had the HPV vaccine should still follow the screening recommendations for their age group.
If you have any questions regarding your risks or what screening schedule is best for you, please contact us and we will help you create an individualized plan that addresses your current health and optimal health goals.