Daily Record – The well woman exam By Dr. Sheri Finn
Taken from the Daily Record news article “The well woman exam” By Dr. Sheri Finn
I recently had the pleasure of rotating with an Obstetrician/Gynecologist in our community and found myself performing several back-to-back well woman exams. This was a great opportunity for me to perfect my exam with the repetition and it was a lot of fun.
Unlike the usual 15 minute time allotment for a focused problem in clinic, these exams were allowed 45 minutes to an hour of time to spend with my patient and talk, getting to know them, in addition to performing the physical exam. Historically, women in the U.S. were recommended to have an annual exam with their Gynecologist or their Primary Care Physician every year and be screened for cervical cancer with the Papanicolaou (Pap) test, but in recent years the recommendation for the Pap test has changed, which leads to the question — do women need to continue having a well woman exam every year?
The answer to this question is yes. All women should continue to have a well woman exam every year despite whether they are due for another Pap test or not. As young females age out of their well child exams at age 18, they should continue to have a yearly visit as recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). These annual visits are an opportunity for counseling on healthy lifestyles, minimizing risks through available screening and preventative measures, keeping women up to date on immunizations, and having the appropriate physical exam and laboratory tests based on individual medical and family history and risk factors for disease.
When making a yearly exam with your OB/GYN or PCP, consider the following reasons to have an annual well woman exam published by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
- Discuss birth control
- Cancer screening
- Health screening
- Depression screening
- Concerns about sex
- Weight control
- Issues with your menstrual period
- Preconception counseling
- Other reasons: Menopause symptoms, urinary incontinence
With an individualized yearly visit, at minimum a woman can expect to have their blood pressure checked, other vital signs measured, a medical and family history taken, and the opportunity to discuss any of the above reasons that may be of concern to the patient or their physician.
The physical exam components can vary based on age and risk factors but generally include a clinical breast exam which is recommended every one to three years for women ages 20-39 and yearly for women ages 40 and older (based on guidelines by ACOG and the American Cancer Society), thyroid exam, and pelvic exam.
Pelvic exams are recommended annually for all women but the components vary depending on age and risk factors and may be deferred in some asymptomatic, low-risk patients that are not due for cervical cancer screening. Cervical cancer screening should start in all women age 21 and older irrespective of their sexual practices.
For further information visit www.acog.org, https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/basic_info/screening.htmor make an appointment with your OB/GYN or PCP for your annual well woman exam.
Dr. Sheri Finn is a resident physician from Community Health of Central Washington in Ellensburg.