The Annual GYN Exam
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.
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 information 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
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.
Women of childbearing age who do not wish to become pregnant may wish to discuss birth control options with one of our gynecologists. There are many different types of birth control, from the pill to an IUD. Your doctor will discuss the many options available to you and help you decide which one is right for you based on your general health, sexual history and lifestyle. Remember that condoms are the only form of birth control that help protect against many sexually-transmitted diseases.
Women and their partners can get a wealth of information on birth control from the website www.bedsider.org.
Here are links to some of our favorite GYN resources:
- The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists
- Period and ovulation trackers: Clue, Flo
- The CDC’s website on STDs