An annual gynecologic exam allows your doctor to assess your overall gynecologic health as well as test for any changes in your reproductive organs. Yearly gynecologic exams are an important part of maintaining overall good health.
Annual exams are typically recommended for women who are sexually active and/or who are over the age of 21. Your doctor will perform a clinical breast exam as well as an internal pelvic exam which checks the pelvic organs including the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix and vulva for any abnormalities. Your doctor will also ask you about any questions or concerns you may have at this exam.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommend that girls between the ages of 13 and 15 years have their first visit to the gynecologist. Most often, a girl's first visit is just to become familiar with the physician and does not entail a physical exam. The doctor may ask some general questions about a girl's menstrual cycle and provide information on what to expect from future gyn visit. If the young woman is sexually active our physicians may test for sexually-transmitted disease and can discuss birth control with parental permission.
A great resource of information for young girls and parents alike is a website called http://www.girlology.com/.
Your doctor may perform a Pap smear or Pap test, which collects cells from the cervix to screen for any changes that may lead to cervical cancer. Women aged 21 and over should have a routine Pap test every three years. Women who have abnormal Pap test results may need to be screened more often. Your physician will advise you on the testing schedule that is right for you.
According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, combining a Pap test with a Human Papillomavirus (HPV) test can extend the interval between cervical cancer screenings from three years to five years in many women between the ages of 30-65. Talk to your doctor for more informaton on screening recommendations for cervical cancer.
The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is actually a group of viruses that are sexually-transmitted. Infection with HPV is common. Certain strains of the virus can infect the mouth and throat and can also cause genital warts and certain types of cervical cancer. Yet, other strands of HPV may lay dormant for years, leaving patients without warning signs or symptoms until the virus has progressed. However, certain types of HPV can be dangerous in that it can lead to the development of cervical cancer in women. This is why Pap tests are an important part of the gynecological exam for women.
Because HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, we encourage sexually active patients to use latex condoms to help prevent its spread.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is a great resource for information on HPV, the HPV vaccine and who should get it as well as screening, treatment and prevention. Visit the CDC website to learn more.
The HPV vaccine is an important, safe preventative tool available to females and males, helping to protect individuals against some of the most common HPV types.
Cervarix and Gardasil are the two HPV vaccines that are safe, effective and licensed by the FDA for protecting females ages 9 through 26 years. Gardasil is recommended for males ages 9 through 26 years. Talk to your doctor for specific information on when to get the vaccine or visit the CDC's HPV vaccination web page.