Your annual wellness exam is more than a breast and pelvic physical exam. It is an opportunity to confidentially talk with us about questions or concerns you might have about birth control, becoming pregnant, gyn problems and menopause. It’s an important part of keeping you healthy or finding potential problems through early detection.
Depending on your age we may ask different questions and recommend different examinations and tests such as pap smears, mammograms, bone density and colorectal cancer screening. Your annual wellness exam may also include information on which vaccinations are recommended based on your age and risks. These can include the flu shot, Tdap, and human papilloma virus (HPV)
Do I still need an annual exam if I’m in menopause or have had a hysterectomy?
Absolutely as your annual exam is an opportunity to discuss problems you may be having during menopause. Even if you no longer need a pap test, you still need to have breast and pelvic exams, mammograms and potentially other screening tests such as bone density and colorectal cancer screening. The need for continuing pap smears for women who have had a hysterectomy will depend on if you had your cervix removed during the hysterectomy and if you have a history of cervical cancer or moderate to severe cervical changes.
How often should I have a pap test?
Most women no longer need a yearly pap test. The American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology recommends these guidelines for most women.
Age 21-29 Have a pap test every three years.
Age 30-64 There are three options to discuss with us.
- A pap test alone every three years.
- HPV and pap test done together every 5 years.
- HPV test alone every 5 years.
Age 65+ Typically no further testing is needed if previous tests have been normal.
Some health problems such as cervical cancer, precancerous cervix cells and a weakened immune system could indicate the need for more frequent testing
Why do I need an HPV test?
HPV is spread through sexual contact and is very common in young women. HPV infections often clear on their own within a year or two, particularly in younger women. After that, they typically aren’t cause for concern.
In women 30 and over HPV testing is more important.
- A high-risk HPV infection poses greater risk for developing cervical cancer.
- Since the infection may have been active longer or reactivated, the virus could trigger cervical cell changes that could lead to cancer.
- Fortunately most women with a positive HPV test do not develop cervical cancer.
The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that are most likely to cause cervical cancer. The vaccine works better when given to girls starting at age 9 but has now been approved for women through age 45.