An Annual Exam: More than Just a Pap Smear
For many years, Pap smears to check for cervical cancer brought women into health care clinics every single year. Now that recommendations have changed (CDC, ACOG) and not every woman needs a Pap smear yearly, women naturally have some confusion about the annual exam. Do I need to come in every year? The answer is Yes!
A women’s health exam is about a lot more than having a Pap test. It is important to see your provider even if you are not due for a Pap. Visits with your women’s health care provider are a time to check for breast conditions, menstrual or other bleeding problems, thyroid disorders, vaginal and pelvic infections, and pelvic masses. In addition, it may also be a time to discuss things like family planning and birth control, fertility, menopause, sexual concerns, pelvic pain, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms, urinary leakage, depression, and issues achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. A yearly exam helps to detect problems early, as many gynecological problems do not cause immediate symptoms.
An annual exam can be performed by a doctor, a nurse practitioner, a physician assistant, or a nurse midwife.
So, don’t skip that appointment. You are well worth the care that you will receive and that you give yourself in return.