Annual well-woman exams are vital for detecting problems before they start. Early detection and treatment for things like ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, or early-stage cancer can make all the difference in your treatment options, health and well-being. However, we completely understand these appointments can cause anxiety or worry—and make even the least shy among us, feel a bit apprehensive.
The board-certified gynecologists at Bay Area Physicians for Women are compassionate toward all of these feelings and emotions. That is why we make every effort to perform our high-quality exams as quickly as possible.
If you are sexually active, over the age of 18, or are experiencing symptoms such as pelvic pain, unusual vaginal bleeding, skin changes, abnormal vaginal discharge or urinary problems, regular gynecology appointments are essential for maintaining your optimal health.
What to do before your first gynecology appointment
Here are a few tips we recommend to help you prepare for your first appointment:
- Inform your gynecologist if this is your very first exam. Our physicians will explain every step of the process before it begins, and help alleviate any worries you have.
- Do not douche, use vaginal creams, or have intercourse for 24 hours prior to your appointment.
- You will need to reschedule if you will be menstruating during the time of your appointment. This ensures you receive the most accurate test results.
Important information about well-woman exams and Pap smears
A Pap smear screens for precancerous and cancerous cells in the cervix and involves the following five steps:
- Internal exam
The gynecologist will check the vagina and cervix by gently opening the vaginal walls with a medical instrument called a speculum. Some women may find this part uncomfortable, but it should not cause any pain. If the speculum feels painful, don’t be shy to tell your gynecologist. They can adjust it for you!
- Physical exam
Using two lubricated, gloved fingers, the gynecologist will check the size and shape of your uterus and ovaries, while checking for any abnormalities or tenderness.
- Pap smear
While the speculum is in place, the gynecologist will quickly swab the cervix and retrieve a cell sample, which will be sent to a diagnostic lab for testing.
- External exam
The gynecologist will check the vulva for irritation, swelling, redness, sores, or other abnormalities.
- Breast exam
Your gynecologist will perform a visual exam to look for abnormalities like rash, dimples or differences in size or shape. Next, he or she will manually check your entire breast, collarbone, underarm and lymph nodes near the breast for any lumps or other physical anomalies.
It is normal to feel nervous about your annual Pap smear and well-woman exam, since they focus on private areas of the body. But, try not to worry! These exams are routine procedures for your physician and you’ll probably be surprised at how quick and easy they are.
If you’re looking for a highly skilled, caring gynecologist in Mobile, Alabama, call Bay Area Physicians for Women at 251-301-1145.