Women’s Health Screening: What to Expect at Your Annual Gynecologic Health Appointment
An annual trip to the Gyn office is not something many women are looking forward to. However, it is one of those things you have to do every year if you are mindful of your health. Recently, there have been many changes in guidelines and recommendations for women’s health screening. It is forever changing. So, in this blog post, I wanted to review the current recommendations and what you should expect on your women’s health exam.
Annual Women’s Health Exam
Annual women’s health exam is more than just a Pap smear. It covers your general health, birth control, sexual activity and sexual health, menstrual periods and more. You will have your breasts, ovaries, and uterus checked.
Pap smear is a screening tool for cervical cancer. For this test, your health care provider will take a small sample of cells from your cervix and will send it to the lab for testing. The current recommendation is that testing begins at age 21 (regardless if you are sexually active or not).
If your first Pap was normal, you could space this screening to every 3 years until age 30. When you turn 30, your healthcare provider will also check for HPV (Human Papillomavirus) to this exam (don’t worry, no extra procedures, just another test for the lab to run). If both of those tests are negative (negative is good in the medical world!), you can continue having Pap smears every 3 years and HPV testing every 5 years. In case your test results come back abnormal you will need more frequent screening to make sure the cells are not turning to cancerous.
For women 25 years old and younger, the annual test for STIs (sexually transmitted infections) is recommended by the CDC. It will check for infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. You may also request testing for STIs any time you are concerned or have a new sexual partner. The CDC also recommends that you get tested for HIV at least once after the age of 13.
A mammogram is an x-ray of your breast to screen for breast cancer. For most women, ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) recommends starting at age 40. Talk to your healthcare provider if there is a history of breast cancer or other female cancers, you may need to start mammograms at an earlier age. There are also genetic tests available if there is a family history of breast cancer.
I hope this clears some of your questions and makes a trip to your women’s healthcare provider less scary.
Let me know if you have any questions or recommendations.
Until the next time,