The importance of the well-woman exam

By Dr. Vian Nguyen, Chief Medical Officer

We all know how important exercise and diet are when it comes to living a healthy life. However, many of us forget the role of regular check-ups in staying healthy. For women, that means a well-woman exam.

A general well-woman exam gives women an opportunity to discuss their reproductive health with their gynecologist or primary care physician. The exam is recommended once a year for most women.

It usually includes a breast and pelvic exam, as well as possibly a Pap smear (also known as Pap test)  depending on age.  It’s also an opportunity for a woman and her doctor to assess individual needs and answer any questions about sexuality, stress, parenting, family planning and hormones.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that girls should have their first gynecological appointment between the ages of 13 to 15. For women between the age of 21 and 29 years old, the ACOG recommendation is for a yearly pelvic exam and a general women’s wellness exam, which should include a Pap smear every three years.

If you’re between the ages of 30 and 64, you should have a pelvic exam every year and a Pap smear every three to five years, depending on what your health care provider recommends. If you’ve had irregular Pap tests in the past, you may still need them annually or more frequently. The best way to prevent cervical cancer is to follow ACOG guidelines for Pap smears and human papillomavirus (HPV) testing, which are both usually done at the same time.

The clinical breast exam is another regular component of the yearly well-woman exam. In conjunction with regular self-exams and mammograms, it helps your doctor screen for breast cancer. Early detection is the best way to prevent this type of cancer.

OB/GYN services like yearly well-woman exams are provided at many Legacy clinics. Schedule an appointment today.