The purpose of this visit is to discuss women's health issues, perform screening tests, detect current problems, and to identify risk factors for future problems that can develop.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends the first visit to the gynecologist take place between the ages of 13-15, however this visit generally does not need to include a pelvic exam unless indicated by the patient's medical/sexual history or symptoms she is experiencing. Annual exams for all women age 21 or greater will include a pelvic exam.
During the annual visit you can expect a comprehensive medical history to be taken, a physical exam which will include a full body exam along with breast exam and pelvic exam. At the time of the pelvic exam the provider will use an instrument called a speculum to allow visualization of the internal walls of the vagina as well as the cervix. It is during this part of the exam that a pap test can be collected as well as other tests such as cultures for infections. Depending on your age, blood samples may be drawn and other tests may be ordered or recommended.
The pelvic exam consists of 3 parts:
National guidelines recommend starting pap test collections at age 21 and although the age to stop collecting paps is still controversial, most gynecologists recommend stopping anywhere between age 65-75 years old.
In addition, the pap test no longer needs to be collected every year at all annual visits. The national guidelines recommend a pap every 3 years for women age 21-29 and a pap test along with HPV testing for all women age greater than 30 years old, every 5 years.
Yes! A lot of women confuse the annual exam with the pap and think of the two as the same. The pap test is just one small component of the annual visit. It is important to note that even if a patient is not due for her pap test in any given year, it is still recommended to come in yearly for the annual visit and exam.
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