The female reproductive health system is complex - so complex that a standard annual wellness exam and physical isn't enough to deliver on a woman's day-to-day health needs. In addition to her physical, a woman aged 21 or older also needs regular pelvic exams, Pap tests, and breast examinations. The Matthews-Vu Medical Group is proud to offer these additional women's health services as part of our comprehensive care plan. If you are due for any women's health testing, we can help you get the care that you need. Just contact us online or by phone to schedule an appointment!
A well woman exam, or women’s wellness visit, is a yearly check-up where doctors review a woman’s sexual and reproductive health. Note that this exam is not just for women looking to conceive; while the exam focuses on the reproductive system, a well woman visit is an essential care method that allows doctors to check for various illnesses of the reproductive system, from benign and painful growths to serious and malignant cancers.
During an annual well woman exam, a woman may undergo a breast examination, a pelvic examination, and/or a pap smear. Should addition testing be needed in addition to these services, our practice can refer you to a specialist who is able to perform additional, advanced women’s health services.
The Pelvic Exam: A pelvic examination refers to the visual and physical examination of a woman's reproductive organs. During the exam, doctors will evaluate the appearance of the exterior reproductive parts while also feeling the internal system’s shape and size. This will allow your doctor to efficiently review the system for changes in appearance or structure that could indicate a medical problem. It's best for the average woman aged 21 or older to undergo a pelvic exam annually; although some doctors will sometimes recommend them more frequently based on medical history. In addition to these annual examinations, a woman's doctor may recommend a pelvic exam between annual visits to help diagnose unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge, as well as address any concerns about ovarian cancer, cysts, sexually transmitted diseases, and other gynecological problems.
The Pap Smear: Pap smears - sometimes referred to as Pap tests - are procedures used to test for cervical cancer. During a Pap smear, your doctor will collect cells from your cervix for testing. Pap smears are important because they can help doctors find cervical cancer at an early, more treatable stage. The Pap smear is usually done in conjunction with a pelvic exam during an annual well woman examination. However, a pelvic exam is not the same as a “pap smear,” and pap smears are not done at every pelvic exam. The current guidelines for Pap smears recommend them every three years for women ages 21 to 65. Pap testing may be needed more often if a previous Pap smear reveals precancerous cells, if a woman is living with HIV, if she has a history of smoking, and/or if she has a weakened immune system due to organ transplant, chemotherapy, or chronic corticosteroid use.
The Breast Exam: A clinical breast examination is also conducted during an annual well woman visit. During this exam, a doctor will feel a patient’s breasts and check under their arms for lumps or other changes that could be caused by breast cancer. Like Pap tests, these exams for breast cancer are conducted to allow your care team to find signs of trouble as soon as possible. If something feels unusual during the breast exam, you will be referred for appropriate follow-up testing. Note that over the age of 40, the clinical breast exam does not replace mammogram imaging testing. Women should also conduct monthly at-home self breast exams in addition to their doctor’s annual clinical breast exam.