person in examine room

Primary Care, Women's Health | 3 months ago

Reasons to Get a Yearly Gynecologic Exam

Benefits include early detection of treatable conditions, such as infections or cancer.

Early detection is important to successfully treat any gynecological or reproductive issue that a patient may experience. Annual gynecologic exams allow doctors to look for signs or symptoms of illness in certain organs in a woman's body. Dr. Sarah Pollock, OB-GYN, Atrium Health Women’s Care Eastover OB-GYN, says from the uterus and fallopian tubes to ovaries and the bladder, the 10-minute exam could save your life.

Standard Pelvic Exam

During a pelvic exam, Pollock says she evaluates her patients’ reproductive organs.

“The pelvic exam is important to visually inspect the vulva and vagina as well as to examine the cervix and uterus,” Pollock says. “It may be time for the Pap smear which is performed no later than every three to five years depending on age, and I will take a small sample of cells from her cervix. I will also feel internally to see if organs have changed in shape or size. Before performing any of these exams, we will go over what to expect and address any concerns.”

Pelvic exams are performed:

  • During a yearly physical exam if indicated
  • When a woman is pregnant
  • When a doctor is checking for an infection (such as chlamydia, bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, and others)
  • When a woman is having pain in their pelvic area or lower back
  • To evaluate abnormal uterine bleeding

A pelvic exam can detect possible signs of ovarian cysts, sexually transmitted infections, uterine fibroids or early-stage cancer.

“A patient should also schedule an appointment if she is having infertility issues or pain with intercourse.”

What Else to Discuss During my OB-GYN Visit 

An annual appointment with your physician can be beneficial. Women should discuss any emotional or physical concerns they may be experiencing.

“I will reinforce healthy lifestyle choices and counsel women on appropriate intervals to have screening tests like a mammogram, pap smear or colonoscopies,” Pollock says, “The type of physical examination needed would be based on symptoms reported by the patient.”

The recommendation to eliminate the annual pelvic examination in women who aren’t experiencing symptoms is based on population data. Not all national medical organizations agree with this recommendation. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology continues to support annual gynecologic exams which usually includes an internal pelvic exam as indicated by a patient’s history and in discussion with their provider.

Experts recommend that you visit your OB-GYN at least once a year for a well-woman visit. The purpose of this checkup is to help you stay healthy and prevent health problems at all stages of life.

Well-woman visits are an important part of your health care, even if you do not need a pelvic exam. They are a chance for you and your OB-GYN to talk about sex, birth control, planning for pregnancy, and more.

Learn more about Atrium Health Women’s Care services and how to find an OB-GYN.